in Houston, Texas
UT-Austin students get 2-year reprieve from tuition hikes, Texas A&M students not so fortunate
Friday, May 04, 2012, 04:32PM CST
By Mike Cronin
horsefeathers

The University of Texas System board has frozen tuition for in-state undergraduates at the Austin campus for two years, while the Texas A&M University System regents approved tuition hikes this afternoon at many of the state’s land-grant universities, according to the Austin American-Statesman and KETK, the NBC affiliate in 
Tyler.

The UT Board of Regents chose to distribute $12 million from the system’s multibillion-dollar endowment to pay for “student success” initiatives at the Austin campus, the Statesman’s Ralph K.M. Haurwitz writes.

UT’s move pleases advocates for keeping college-tuition costs down but came over UT-Austin President Bill Powers’ objections. Gov. Rick Perry declared last year that Texas universities should aim to provide a four-year bachelor’s degree at no more than $10,000.

“Today, the University of Texas System regents have done right by the students at UT-Austin and their parents,” said the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Thomas Lindsay in a statement. “Tuition and student loan debt at Texas universities have reached record highs, and higher education costs have far outpaced inflation and every other sector of the economy. This two-year tuition freeze is a much needed and long-overdue reprieve.”

But UT-Austin chief Powers expressed disappointment. He had hoped to use the extra tuition money for items such as freshman advising, additional courses required for graduation and for programs to help students earn their degrees within four years.

“ ‘There is a tremendous difference between a one-time allocation and solid, recurring allocations,’ he said after the regents' unanimous vote. ‘Programs have to persist’ to succeed in boosting graduation rates. ‘We can't just do them for two years and (then) not do them.’”

Powers expressed those views against the background of last year’s funding cuts by the Texas Legislature to state schools.

UT-Austin students will continue to pay $4,896 a semester. That’s $9,792 a year, excluding fees.

UT-Austin students will not pay the lowest tuition for in-state undergraduates that students pay at New Mexico Highlands University: $2,952, including fees, according to the most recent data available from U.S. News & World Report. And not as high as the most expensive: $15,250, including fees, at Pennsylvania State University-University Park.

The UT regents approved tuition hikes for most of the other eight UT schools, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Associated Press reported.

“The University of Texas at Arlington did not ask for a rate increase for 2012, citing enrollment growth and new revenue sources,” writes the AP’s Jim Vertuno. “The school was authorized to raise rates in 2013 if needed.”

KETK reports that “the legislature reduced higher education funding by $556 million in the current two-year budget despite the pressure of inflation and student enrollment in state universities rising from 532,000 in fall 2009 to 569,000 in fall 2011.”

A&M’s tuition hike will further strain the budgets of students already coping with state cuts to financial-aid. To compensate, universities have reduced the size of students’ aid packages.

About 43,000 fewer students will receive financial aid during the current biennium, according to the Higher Education Coordinating Board.

***

Contact Mike Cronin at mike@texaswatchdog.org or 713-228-2850. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelccronin or @texaswatchdog.

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Photo from the Marx Brothers movie Horse Feathers, where Groucho Marx plays a university president.

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