Students concerned over possible tuition increase

AddThis

Executive Vice President and Provost Steven Leslie answers questions at a public forum regarding tuition hikes in the Main Building, Wednesday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Students have voiced concerns about possible tuition increases which are intended to improve four-year graduation rates and worry that those goals favor timely graduation rates over quality education.

About 50 people attended a Tuition Policy Advisory Committee forum about tuition recommendations for 2012-2014 on Wednesday. TPAC is considering recommending the largest tuition increases that the UT System will allow in order to cover budget shortfalls.

The committee will make their tuition recommendations to President William Powers Jr. on Nov. 28 and Powers will recommend his own tuition policies to the UT System Board of Regents on how to set tuition for 2012-2014. The UT System administration set a 2.6 percent cap on tuition increases for in-state undergraduates and a 3.6 percent increase for all other students. The System gave directives that any tuition increase should be tied to improving four-year graduation rates.

Business freshman Sunny Das pointed to the proposed 3.6 percent tuition increase for non-resident students like himself. Das said he wondered whether UT would become less-desirable for non-resident students if tuition increased.

Student Government President Natalie Butler, a TPAC member, said as a non-resident student herself, she thinks the University recognizes the value of students from outside of Texas, but the state legislature emphasizes educating Texans as more important.

“I think the more of us here the better,” Butler said.

Social work senior Faith Sandberg said she claimed AP credits for college credit at a much lower cost than the tuition for the same credits. Sandberg asked if TPAC has considered increasing fees to keep the proposed tuition raise lower.

TPAC co-chair Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer, said TPAC prefers to make financial adjustments through tuition so it is not done through fees which can pile up on students. Hegarty said another reason TPAC prefers to increase tuition instead of fees is that it increases the funding pool for financial aid. State law mandates that public universities must allocate 20 percent of tuition revenue towards financial aid.

In regards to improving four-year graduation rates, Hegarty said he thinks the Board of Regents is approaching higher education with strategies seen in the corporate world.

“I can’t pretend to know what’s going on in their mind,” Hegarty said. “This is an education process, we’re human beings. That’s what makes this business very,
very different.”

Transfer students are not counted in four-year graduation rates since they do not attend the University from their first year. Social Work junior Gwen Cubit said transfer students will not reap the benefits associated with improving four-year graduation rates.

Cubit said transfer students face different needs than students who attend the University from their freshman year.

“I don’t see transfer students represented much,” Cubit said.

Liberal arts sophomore Jordan Metoyer, said the pressure from the UT System does not seem as transparent as the funding pressure from the state. Metoyer is the Student Government underrepresented students agency director and said first-generation students face many financial burdens that make it difficult to graduate in four years like the UT System directives emphasize.

“It seems like they’re trying to get us in and out,” Metoyer said. “For a student whose the first in college, that’s not as easy as it sounds.”

TPAC co-chair Steven Leslie, executive vice-president and provost, said TPAC is trying to balance the pressure from the UT System to improve four-year graduation rates while maintaining Tier 1 status and providing students with an environment in which they can explore their career options.

The committee will hold a forum Nov. 30 to get student feedback about its tuition recommendations to Powers before he makes recommendations to the Board of Regents.

Printed on Thursday, November 17, 2011 as: Looming tuition increase causes student distress