Over the past decade, problems with tuition have persisted

The Daily Texan’s opinion department has covered tuition at UT extensively. When we started thinking about how we wanted to write this editorial, we realized we had a wealth of older content to pull from that’s still relevant today. The following are quotes from editorials and columns the department has published over the past decade.

Lack of transparency when tuition rates are raised

“For students to feel heard, they must be informed early and often on the funding challenges that both UT-Austin and the UT System face.”

The Daily Texan Editorial Board, 2017

“Students are left adrift in nightmares of their own as they begin registering for classes on Monday without knowing what their tuition bills will be.”

— The Daily Texan Editorial Board, 2012

“Throughout the budget-cutting process, decisions have been made behind closed doors — first with (the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee’s) militant insistence that students and reporters be shut out of meetings … While these entities are not under a legal obligation to open their meetings to the public or post an agenda or minutes, the lack of transparency is troubling.”

–– Lauren Winchester, Editorial Board member, 2010

No itemized bill

“By pooling funds, UT blurs the lines regarding the flow of tuition dollars throughout the University. This system, in absence of itemized bills, reduces transparency and creates mistrust within the student body.”

Richard Lee, opinion columnist, 2020

“It’s unreasonable to expect students to sift through complicated financial documents in order to understand where their tuition dollars go. And it’s unreasonable for the University to place further burdens on its students without providing more clarity.”

The Daily Texan Editorial Board, 2017

Overloaded Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid

“I have been required to sell shares of my retirement funds to cover costs that were supposed to be paid by federal and state programs … If UT is committed to serving student veterans’ needs, they need to hire more personnel and streamline the certification process.”

Stephen Ollar, opinion contributor, 2012

“If students do not receive their answers in a timely manner, they’re in danger of missing out on crucial financial aid opportunities. However, UT’s Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid can take several hours to answer questions via email and phone.”

Jesus Vidales, opinion columnist, 2020 

UT is already working to mitigate several of the issues we’ve highlighted here. We spoke with Larry Singell, senior vice provost for resource management, and Joey Williams, director of communications for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, who informed us there are several groups on campus working to increase the transparency of student tuition bills before the fall 2021 tuition bills are generated.

We just wish this would’ve been made a priority sooner.

Williams said when tuition is raised, the president sends out two emails to the whole campus: one when the process starts and another when a decision has been made. Williams said the Office of the President engages with Student Government leaders during the process as well.

We’re told when discussions are starting and when a decision has been made, but we’d like it to be a more dynamic exchange between the institution and students. When the University does collect our feedback, we’d like UT to take it all seriously — not just the feedback from Student Government.

The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid also took on extra work when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Singell and Williams said this extra work is the reason for the “slowdown in the processing” of students’ inquiries and questions, despite hiring additional staff.

We commend the hardworking members of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid. We would simply like to see the office receive more support from the University. If we can afford to pay our president’s $1.25 million annual salary, we should be able to ensure the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid is as supported as possible.