Senate releases campuswide survey to gauge student views about University tuition

Kaushiki Roy

The Senate of College Councils released a campuswide survey Oct. 19 for students to express their concerns regarding the University’s biannual tuition reset, which will take place next February.

Over 3,700 students have responded to the survey as of Oct. 27, with many students asking for transparency from UT administration about the University’s budget and to have their tuition money allocated to underserved departments such as ethnic studies, according to Senate policy director Echo Nattinger. She said the Senate expects over 5,000 students to reply by the end of the semester. 

Nattinger, a Plan II and government junior, said this year’s survey has garnered a lot of feedback from students who want to know where their tuition money will be going during UT’s budget meeting. 

Nattinger said two years ago the university unilaterally raised tuition without soliciting student’s thoughts on where the money should be reallocated. She explains the intention of the survey is to gauge student feedback on an abundance of financial issues including textbook affordability and overall tuition budgeting. 

The pandemic impacted survey responses in terms of increasing student financial aid concerns and mental health support for students, according to Nattinger. 

“The predominant trend is students don’t want to pay more tuition,” Nattinger said. “For those who do support a tuition increase, the primary resources that they would like to see are more funds allocated towards our scholarships, so more scholarship availability, and also increased student employee wages.”

Senate President Steven Ding said he thinks many students would like to know where their money goes. 

“Even as the president of this organization, I don’t understand how the budget works,” Ding said. “That’s another big takeaway from this (survey), having students understand where their tuition dollars are going towards, and what their money is going to accomplish.”

Ding, a management information systems and urban studies senior, said he hopes to work with University administration to address student concerns and responses before UT finalizes its budget. 

“The biggest thing I hope to get out of (collaborating with administration) is more transparency from the University and to know where the money goes,” Ding said. “But I think we want to consider academic departments that don’t have much support, like ethnic studies.”

In previous years, Nattinger said the Senate sent the survey after the tuition reset took place. She said the Senate wanted to hold the survey before the tuition reset meeting this year so students could dictate how their tuition money is spent. 

Nattinger said she is hopeful this year’s responses will receive stronger support from University administration when the final budget is introduced.

The Senate will present the survey data at the Board of Regents meeting in February and also meet with the Dean’s Council to discuss where students want their tuition money to be allocated, Nattinger said. 

“What a lot of people miss about these big financial decisions is that a lot of (decisions) go back to the colleges,” Nattinger said. “So we’re being very careful and considerate of colleges’ individual needs.”