Powers recommends maximum tuition increase

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President William Powers, Jr. asked the UT System Board of Regents for the largest tuition increase the UT System will allow over the next two academic years.

The regents will meet in February or March to finalize tuition costs for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, UT System spokesman Matt Flores said. Powers sent his recommendation to the System on Dec. 15.

This year the System required all increase requests be tied to improving four-year graduation rates. Flores said the recommendations are subject to change as the UT System chancellor meets with the UT institution presidents to polish their recommendations to best reflect campus needs.

“There’s still latitude,” Flores said. “It’s how well does each institution make it’s pitch.”

If the regents follow the recommendations, in-state undergraduates will pay $127 more each semester during semesters in the 2012-13 academic year and $131 more each semester during the 2013-14 year — 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 during 2012-13 and between $580 and $665 more each semester in 2013-14. All graduate students would also pay 3.6 percent more in tuition. The UT System gave Powers several directives, including restricting tuition-increase requests to no more than 2.6 percent for in-state undergraduates and 3.6 percent for all other students.

The proposed figures are the same as those recommended by the University’s Tuition Policy Advisory Committee on Nov. 28. After reviewing reports from each of the College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committees, members discussed the needs of each of the University’s colleges. Student CTBAC members and their college deans spent the fall semester gaining student feedback 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.

The proposed increase would provide $30.6 million worth of academic funds from 2012-2014, but the University would still lack $30.5 million to fund initiatives set to increase graduation rates, according to tuition recommendation documents. The University is also facing a $92 million cut in state funding from the last legislative session.

Carisa Nietsche, TPAC member and president of the Senate of College Councils, said she thinks Powers’ recommendation is a good decision for the UT Austin campus.

Nietsche said before she became a TPAC member, she did not firmly understand how the University budget worked and believes students can benefit from more guidance about the budget.

“I would love to see the CTBACs have an educational piece at a college level to better educate the student body on that issue,” Nietsche said.

Nietsche said in the future she would like opportunities for student feedback to begin earlier in the semester, but CTBAC meetings and TPAC forums hinge on how quickly the System provides directives. She said there is a disconnect between the CTBAC student feedback and the student opposition at the TPAC forums.

“Their voice wasn’t really heard in the CTBACs,” Nietsche said. “I encourage them to get more involved.”

Plan II sophomore Bianca Hinz-Foley stood with fellow Occupy UT students in opposition for tuition increases at the last TPAC forum.

“I’m absolutely against the tuition increases because it will further marginalize lower-income families,” Hinz-Foley said.

Hinz-Foley said University administrators did not adequately consider the burden of tuition increases for students who do not get much financial aid or parental support. She said the TPAC process did not give students adequate opportunities to participate in making decisions and said TPAC’s student representative at large is a position which fails to provide students with a voice.