Committee sends tuition recommendations to Powers

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President William Powers Jr. will receive recommendations today to ask the UT System Board of Regents for the largest tuition increase the regents will allow during the next two academic years.

If the recommendations from the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee are followed, in-state undergraduates would pay $127 more each semester in 2012-13 and $131 more each semester in 2013-14 — a 2.6 percent increase each year. Out-of-state students would face a 3.6 percent tuition increase, which would mean an increase of between $560 and $642 more each semester in 2012-13 and between $580 and $665 more each semester in 2013-14. Graduate students would also pay 3.6 percent more in tuition.

Powers will take the committee’s recommendations into consideration before making his own recommendations to the board by Dec. 15. The board, which sets tuition for all of the UT institutions, will review Powers’ recommendations in March.

The nine-member committee includes a student representative of undergraduates who receive financial aid, three student leaders and five faculty members and administrators. TPAC held closed meetings most Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning Oct. 25. After reviewing reports from each of the College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committees, members discussed the needs of each of the University’s colleges.

TPAC’s meetings were not open to the public because the group only has the power to make recommendations, unlike the Board of Regents, which sets the tuition rates.

Committee co-chair Steven Leslie, executive vice president and provost of the University, said he wants the tuition-setting process to be transparent, but the TPAC meetings are closed because members discuss confidential budget information.

TPAC co-chair Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer for the University, said the meetings are closed for the sake of the committee members.

“It has to do with making people feel open to expressing their opinions,” Hegarty said.

The regents gave the committee several directives, including restricting tuition-increase requests to 2.6 percent for in-state undergraduates and 3.6 percent for all other students. The board required all increase requests be tied to improving four-year graduation rates.

Hegarty 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 an additional $30.6 million from 2012-14, but there would still be $47.7 million of unfunded academic needs for the University, according to committee documents.

Leslie said the TPAC recommendations leave some tuition issues unresolved.

“There are still conversations about what will happen with the professional schools,” he said.

Powers’ recommendations might include giving revenue from increased tuition directly to professional schools instead of pooling it for general use the way most schools do, Leslie said.

“There would be additional charges with the understandings that that money would go back to the differential needs of that school,” he said.

Manuel Gonzalez, TPAC member and president of the Graduate Student Assembly, said the tuition increases that TPAC is recommending to Powers seemed inevitable from the committee’s first meeting.

State law mandates that public universities must allocate 20 percent of tuition revenue toward financial aid, but these funds do not contribute to financial aid for graduate students. Gonzalez said a 3.6 percent tuition increase does not seem modest, as the committee’s recommendations classify it, especially for graduate students who have their own families to support.

However, Gonzalez said the University must remain competitive. He suggested alternatives to tuition increases such as decreases in the number of graduate students the University admits.

TPAC will hold a forum with Powers from 4 to 5 p.m. Wednesday to gather feedback about the recommendations in ACE 2.302.

Printed on Monday, November 28, 2011 as: Committee advises tuition increase