Student Government, Senate ask UT-Austin, Board of Regents for increased tuition transparency, financial aid clarification

Andrew Zhang

UT Student Government and the Senate of College Councils released a statement Tuesday asking the University and the UT System Board of Regents to be more transparent about tuition costs.

The statement calls for the University administration to clarify financial aid communications and waive auxiliary fees. SG and Senate are also asking the University to follow the lead of peer institutions such as UT-San Antonio on several of the items.

The statement refers to a July 30 Senate survey about student outlooks on the fall semester. Out of 1,418 surveyed students, 91.2% were unhappy with the decision not to lower tuition costs and 39.61% cited financial concerns when considering a gap semester.

“One of the drivers for this statement was from student sentiments related to (COVID-19),” said Steven Ding, Senate policy director and urban studies and management information systems junior. “At this point, it’s unlikely any action will be taken on tuition rates for the fall, but we can at least ask for transparency in terms of where the tuition money is going towards.”

To achieve this transparency, the statement asks the University to create a full breakdown of how tuition and fees students are allocated, including how tuition changes such as the 2.6% increase in effect this fall will be distributed. The statement calls for the University to publicize this breakdown online, like UT-San Antonio. 

“(The UT System knows) that many students are facing economic hardships, and all UT institutions are exploring ways to enhance and expand financial support and resources for students during these challenging times,” UT System spokesperson Karen Adler said in an email. 

The University has received the statement and will need time to review it, University spokesperson J.B. Bird said in an email.

“We recognize the cost of education is a major concern for students and families, more so now than ever, and we will make every effort to be transparent in our approach to the issues the student leaders are raising,” Bird said.

UT-Austin and the UT Board of Regents should also consult SG committees on financial aid before making tuition increases in the future, according to the statement. When released, the statement was signed by 16 members of Senate and SG leadership, including student body president Anagha Kikkeri and student body vice president Winston Hung.

Future tuition increases should be accompanied by an increase in the Student Services budget, according to the statement. The organizations propose switching to a decoupled payment model, where payment toward tuition and other resources, such as student services, would be separated on an itemized tuition bill on the University’s website.

In light of recent confusion over eligibility for the Texas Advance Commitment, a financial aid program for students whose families have an adjusted gross income of less than $125,000, the statement asks for public clarification on which students qualify for the program. The organizations also demand an explanation on how outside scholarships affect financial aid and the establishment of a net price calculator for financial aid and tuition.

The organizations ask for the University to waive or reduce fees for students attending school remotely and cannot access resources such as Gregory Gym, following the lead of UT-San Antonio’s 50% reduction of recreation center fees and elimination of their transportation fee, international education fee and student union fee. If the University cannot waive or reduce these fees, it should explain why that is the case, according to the statement.

Lastly, Senate and SG ask that the University consider decreasing spring tuition.

“Students at The University of Texas at Austin want an affordable education, with full transparency concerning where their money is going and how it is being reinvested into their success,” the statement said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a new comment from the UT System.