Senate of College Councils wants to keep tuition set-asides

Van Nguyen

The UT Senate of College Councils kicked off the fall semester Thursday to pass Senate Resolution 1602, a piece of legislation supporting the continuation of tuition set asides for Texas public universities. 

Up to 20 percent of all tuition collected by public Texas colleges is put toward tuition set-asides, which help fund grants for students who express a need for financial aid. Senate approved the legislation after Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he would like to remove tuition set-asides when the legislature reconvenes in January. 

Dan Patrick said to The Daily Texan in August that tuition set-asides are nothing more than a “hidden tax.” 

“We should not be taxing every student who attends an institution of higher education in Texas, up to 15-20% of their tuition, to fund other students,” Patrick said in an email. “Most students and their parents aren’t even aware that up to one-fifth of their tuition is going to fund other students. If we are not going to protect Texas students and their parents from this hidden tax, we should change the name from Texas Grants to Texas Parents and Students Grants because that is who is funding the program.” 

The Texas Higher Education Board said over 107,00 students in Texas benefit from grants funded by tuition set-asides. Over 29,000 of these students come from to families that make less than $10,000 a year. 

According to the resolution, approximately $324 million dollars a year is provided by tuition set-asides, and if removed, poorer students at UT would lose about $4,327 in aid per student and tuition would be cut by about $722. 

The Senate concluded that the removal of tuition set-asides will have negative effects on racial and ethnic diversity on all public universities as well as decrease the number of financially disadvantaged students attending the University.

“We need the legislature to fund these grant programs [if set-asides are removed]. Unfortunately, the legislature will probably not fund these grant programs,” said Sergio Cavazos, government senior and Senate president. “We want higher education to be accessible and affordable for students.”  

The Senate budget for the 2016-2017 academic year was also approved at the meeting. 

Kassie Barroquillo, communication studies doctoral candidate and UT Votes program coordinator, was at the meeting urging senators to get those in their respective colleges registered to vote. 

She wants to create a voter registration competition between the colleges at UT. 

“In 2012, 42 percent of students at UT voted,” Barroquillo said. “In 2014 during the midterm elections it was 18 percent. We need to fix this. Our goal is to get 60 percent.” 

Senat also disscussed SR 1603, which would adopt Canvas as the sole quizzing and polling platform at UT. 

Jamie Villarreal, government junior and Senate communications director, said the biggest point made by the resolution was that Canvas is free, opposed to using iClickers and other services, which requires a purchase outside of class. This resolution does not affect learning platforms such as Quest. 

Senate will vote on SR 1603 at its next meeting in two weeks.