Blame tuition woes on the state, not the University

Spencer Buckner

UT’s announcement of likely upcoming tuition hikes should come as a surprise to nobody. A need for more funds coupled with an unsupportive state legislature make rate increases inevitable. Regardless, students around campus have been speaking out against it. In a survey issued by the Senate of College Councils in late October, over 45 percent of UT students have said they would “definitely not” support a tuition increase. A handful of respondents said it could lead to them not pursuing a second major, cutting back on food expenses or dropping out of UT altogether. No Longhorn should be forced to curtail their studies or end their college education altogether based on tuition increases. Outrage against tuition hikes is justified, but we must be careful to reserve it for those who deserve it.

Across Texas, universities are struggling to serve students and staff on dwindling budgets. It’ll be a lot harder for what starts here to change the world if we don’t have an adequate research budget or if we can’t afford internationally renowned faculty. Tuition increases are understandably hard to digest for Longhorns, but wishing them away doesn’t solve the problems our self-righteous state legislature has created. Our tuition currently funds critical student services, utilities, research programs, and financial aid. Denying a vital increase in tuition will mean those costs are simply transferred elsewhere — to transcripts, mental health services, or Longhorns in need of financial assistance. All of these programs could be covered by state funds, but Texas legislators took those away decades ago.

Even though it may feel like it, tuition increases aren’t caused by a sadistic administration here at UT. The genesis of our tuition rate debacle can be traced to our state legislature. Since 2001, the amount of money spent by the state of Texas per student at our public universities has contracted from $7,500 to $5,500. In that same time span, the average price of yearly tuition at Texas public universities has risen by nearly $5,000. Sure, Texas gives six billion more dollars to our universities than we did in 2001, but that hasn’t been nearly enough to cover the rising costs of higher enrollment and new technologies.

So what happened? In 2003, the Texas legislature allowed Texas universities to set their own tuition in the name of decreasing the state’s financial burden by handing students the bill. Our state officials simultaneously began to shame universities for tuition hikes while proposing to further gut state expenditures, or implement a freeze on tuition increases. The state legislature cannot reasonably expect to drain all avenues of funding for our universities and expect them to thrive.

It is unacceptable that Texan politicians are more comfortable seeing universities defunded and students forced out of an education than they are seeing more of a state budget carved out for them. As students who have had enough of policy made at our expense, we should fight back. Let’s put the blame where it belongs, and hold our politicians accountable for the mess they’ve handed us.

Buckner is a Plan II and government freshman from Austin.