Powers to consider students' opinion on tuition increases

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Adrian Orozco leads an Occupy protest during Wednesday’s Tuition Policy Advisory Committee Forum, calling for President Bill Powers and the Board of Regents to refrain from raising tuition rates in 2013.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

[Updated at 3:02 p.m: Corrected name of student in caption]

Several students demanded President William Powers Jr. explain possible tuition increases. Powers said, “I’ll take the input that I hear today. That’s my answer.”

About 75 people, including those of Occupy UT, attended a forum on Wednesday to voice and chant concerns about tuition recommendations for the largest increase the regents will allow during the next two academic years.

Powers attended the forum and received the tuition recommendations that were compiled by the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee on Monday.

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’s recommendations in March.

Urban studies senior John Lawler, student government Liberal Arts representative, said the TPAC process lacks democratic methods, and he has some severe concerns about student leaders on the committee not accurately representing student opinions against tuition increases.

“I think there’s a severe controversy with TPAC representing student concerns,” Lawler said. “When you add the cumulative tuition increase, it’s highly substantial.”

Attendees applauded when Lawler said he places the main blame on the board of regents and said the TPAC process makes it appear acceptable for the state legislature to cut funding. In the last legislative session, $92 million of state funding for UT Austin was cut.

Lawler said the tuition-setting process has improved, especially with this year’s addition of the College Tuition Budget Advisory Committees, but he said the process should include more student input. Student committee members worked with their college deans to get feedback from students about tuition rates and college priorities. The Liberal Arts CTBAC is the only committee, out of a total of 16 CTBACs, that opposed tuition increases.

Carisa Nietsche, TPAC member and president of the Senate of College Councils, said she felt like her representative duties hinged on the CTBAC responses.

Committee co-chair Steven Leslie, executive vice president and provost, spoke for several minutes during the question portion and said the colleges are trying to get by with less funding.

“We’re all in this together,” Leslie said. “Higher education is in trouble across the country.”

About nine out of the 10 students who commented at the meeting spoke against tuition increases in the 40 minutes available for student feedback.

Journalism sophomore Eleanor Holmes said that because of caps on loans, she would not be able to cover tuition increases through loans or scholarships.

“You’re only allowed to take out so many loans a year,” Holmes said. “I’d take out the extra money, but I’m not allowed to.”

After the forum, Powers said he would try to provide insights about TPAC’s recommendations before he sends his own tuition recommendation to the UT System on Dec. 15. Powers said he did not want to comment on the recommendations before he had time to consider them and the student feedback.

“I’m going to sit and think on it,” Powers said.

Printed on Thursday, December 1, 2011 as: Public forum allows input on tuition