Students may face largest tuition jump

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Students may face higher tuition for 2012-2014 as the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee considers increases.

The committee is considering recommending the largest tuition increases that the board will allow in order to cover budget shortfalls. Tuition policy for the next two years will be set by the Board of Regents in March, and the UT System administration set a cap that tuition increases should not exceed a 2.6 percent increase for in-state undergraduates and a 3.6 percent increase for all other students. The committee will hold a forum today at 4 p.m. in Main 212 to hear feedback on the recommendations they are considering.

The UT System administration gave directives that any tuition increases should be tied to improving four-year graduation rates in October.

TPAC will make tuition recommendations to President William Powers Jr. by the end of the month, who will then recommend tuition policy to the UT System by Dec. 15. This deadline is more than a month earlier than the last tuition setting deadline Powers made in 2009.

TPAC co-chair Steven Leslie, executive vice president and provost of the University, said the committee takes the needs of the colleges into consideration, but must do so in terms of improving four-year graduation rates due to the UT System directives. Leslie said the projected funds from the possible tuition increases would not completely cover the many needs of the colleges.

“Our expectation is that the need will far exceed what the committee can ask for,” Leslie said.

Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer for the University, said the $92 million cut in state funding from the last legislative session makes it difficult to cover basic University needs. The tuition increase would bring in $30.6 million from 2012-2014, but there would still be $47.7 million of unfunded academic needs for the University, according to committee documents. “There may be salary increases but it won’t be from tuition increases, it will be from reallocation,” Hegarty said.

Hegarty said access to the University is a big issue for the committee, and the committee does not want tuition increases to keep low-income students from attending
the University.

“Anytime you raise the cost, it will increase the financial burden,” Hegarty said.

However, Hegarty said financial aid can ease the financial burden caused by tuition increases. He pointed to state law that mandates public universities allocate 20 percent of tuition revenue towards financial aid.

John Dollard, vice provost, said feedback at the forum could influence the committee’s recommendation, but it depends on the numbers of students who attend and the relevance of the feedback on tuition policy. He said some feedback at the last forum concerned issues that are mandated by the state, so the committee cannot address them in their tuition recommendations.

Student Government President Natalie Butler said TPAC’s conversations focused on the UT System caps of 2.6 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduates and 3.6 percent for all other students.

Butler said the conversations also focused on the UT System directive that any tuition increase be connected to improving four-year graduation rates. She said the committee hopes to hear student feedback about the directive, the tuition increases that the committee is considering and the financial priorities of the colleges. Butler said the committee will take the feedback into consideration before it makes its recommendation to Powers.

“Please take advantage of the opportunity,” Butler said.

Another forum will be held the week of Nov. 30 to get student feedback about the committee’s recommendations to Powers before he makes tuition recommendations to the Board of Regents.

Printed on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 as: Students could face significant tuition hike.