Meeting expected to decide two year tuition rate

AddThis

The UT System Board of Regents is expected to decide tuition rates for the next two academic years at its meeting Thursday.

This is the latest that the regents have set tuition rates for the 15 UT System institutions since 2004 after tuition deregulation shifted tuition setting power from the state Legislature to the regents. The delay is halting the calculation and distribution of financial aid packages and planning for the University budget.

President William Powers Jr. asked the regents on Dec. 15 for the largest tuition increase allowed during the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic years. The UT System gave directives that any recommendation to increase tuition must be tied to improving four-year graduation rates.

University officials support the tuition increase in an effort to maintain the University’s Tier One status. In spite of the $92 million cut in state funding in the last legislative session, University officials worry that the regents will not raise tuition in an effort to improve affordability and four-year graduation rates. Both the University’s Faculty Council and the UT System Student Advisory Council sent a letter raising concerns about the regents priorities to UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.

If the recommendations are followed, in-state undergraduates would face a 2.6 percent tuition increase each year for the next two academic years. Out-of-state students and graduate students would face a 3.6 percent tuition increase each year for the next two academic years.

The proposed increase would provide $30.6 million worth of academic funds from 2012-2014, but the University would still lack $30.5 million of academics funds, according to tuition recommendation documents.

The tuition-setting process began with input from the College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committees, in which student members worked with their college deans to get 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.

From this feedback received at forums, the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee drafted recommendations to increase tuition. Powers adopted the recommendations from the nine-member committee, which includes a student representative of undergraduates who receive financial aid, three student leaders and five faculty members and administrators.

Samantha Dallefeld, chair of the UT System Student Advisory Council and UT Medical Branch at Galveston student, wrote a letter of recommendations to the UT System chancellor on behalf of the council on March 23. The letter outlined the concern that “several avenues for student input regarding tuition and fee setting are not being adequately heard” and that the focus on improving four-year graduation rates hindered discussion regarding other institutional goals. The goals mentioned include “seeking Tier One status, transportation needs, the quality of student life, or becoming the nation’s best public research institution.”

Alan Friedman, Faculty Council chair and English professor and Hillary Hart, Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets chair and architecture and engineering senior lecturer, drafted the Faculty Council letter on April 11 to express “strong support for the modest tuition increase recommended by President Powers.” It went on to describe the faculty’s perspective on the needs and demands of students, including academic and financial strains, but ultimately reiterated the importance of maintaining the excellence of the University.

“All the students with whom we have spoken and most who spoke out at TPAC forum last fall recognize that, while they do not like the tuition increase, the University must keep pace with the cost of living if it is to be able to keep offering the quality education they seek,” the letter reads.

Some students, including those involved with Occupy UT, spoke out against tuition increases at the three Tuition Policy Advisory Committee forums.

Friedman said he recognizes that a tuition increase may negatively affect individual students.

“I’m very sorry about that,” Friedman said. “I reluctantly support the tuition increase.”

He said due to the drastic cuts in state funding, it is imperative that the regents increase tuition in order to maintain the excellency of the University.

“This is an extraordinary resource and it’s fragile,” Friedman said. “It’s very easy to destroy excellence and it’s very hard to rebuild it.”

Printed on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 as: Meeting expected to decide two-year tuition rate