Tuition for in-state undergraduates at UT-Austin will not go up for at least another two years, but other categories of students—as well as those at nearly every other UT System school—will be paying more, the system’s regents voted today.
While resident undergrads at the flagship campus might breathe a sigh of relief, University administrators and some supporters fear for UT-Austin’s long-term financial future.
The regents rejected UT-Austin’s proposed 2.6 percent tuition increase for in-state undergrads, freezing tuition for the next two years.
However, the regents approved a 3.6 percent increase for graduate and professional students and modified the University’s request for a 2.6 percent increase for out-of-state undergrads, who will pay 2.1 percent more.
Like so many colleges nationwide, UT-Austin finds itself stuck in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” quandary when it comes to tuition. Tuition hikes worsen the financial burden faced by students and families taking on ever more debt. But as state legislatures cut funding, the money has to come from somewhere.
UT administrators say that raising tuition would fund vital programs, enabling students to graduate sooner—and, accordingly, to spend less on college.
“I’m disappointed that our proposal was not adopted,” UT-Austin president Bill Powers told the media after the regents’ meeting today. “Every penny of our proposal would be directed toward student success programs, from course transformations to advising to a whole number of other programs we’ve initiated to improve student success, which itself reduces the cost of higher education.”
The regents offered UT-Austin a short-term consolation prize: $6.6 million from an endowment overseen by the regents. On his blog, Powers says that while UT appreciates the gesture, it’s only a stopgap measure: “A one-time allocation, however much it might mitigate short-term problems, cannot substitute for stable, recurring, sustainable funding.”
The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a statewide higher education advocacy group, released a statement calling the regents’ decisions “a step backward.”
“The Board of Regents claims to support efforts to improve four-year graduation rates, which would ultimately save students and families more money than the cost of a modest tuition increase, yet the board refused to fund the very programs that would improve student success,” the coalition’s statement said.
The regents approved or modified most tuition increase requests from other branches of the UT System. Only UT-Arlington did not seek a hike.
Photo by Flickr user Nic McPhee