Tuition Policy Advisory Committee Recommends 3.95 Percent Tuition Increase to Avoid Budget Cuts

The Tuition Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) at The University of Texas at Austin has recommended to President William Powers Jr. a tuition increase of 3.95 percent per year for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years for all undergraduate and graduate student programs to avoid budget cuts that would jeopardize the university's quality of education and level of student services.

The committee said another factor to include in the total cost of education is a new fee of $65 per semester beginning in 2010-12 that was approved by about 70 percent of the vote in a 2006 student-wide referendum to pay for a Student Activity Center now being built. The combined effect is to increase the weighted average per semester "total cost of education" for a resident undergraduate student by $241 (5.4 percent) to $4,709 in 2010-11 and by $186 (3.95 percent) to $4,895 in 2011-12. For a resident graduate student, it is an increase of $218 (5.62 percent) to $4,100 in 2010-11, and by $162 (3.95 percent) to $4,262 in 2011-12.

The TPAC, a panel of students, faculty and administrators, said the increases are essential to enable the university to remain one of the nation's premier institutions of higher education and pursue its goal of being one of the best public institutions in the nation.

"If this is not achieved, the university will face a steady decline in educational quality due to its inability to recruit and retain talent," the committee said in its recommendation to Powers. "TPAC believes that such a decline is not acceptable to the students, faculty and staff of the university, nor is it in the best interest of the people of the State of Texas."

For the average resident undergraduate student, it is an increase of $176 per semester in 2010-11 and an increase of $186 per semester in 2011-12. For the average resident graduate student, it is an increase of $153 per semester in 2010-11 and an increase of $162 per semester in 2011-12. The committee's recommendations do not include the professional schools. In the School of Law, the Provost's Office has recommended an increase of between 3.95 and 5 percent, depending on the year of first enrollment. No tuition increase is proposed for the Master of Public Accounting program in the McCombs School of Business. A 5.86 percent hike is proposed for Master of Business Administration students in 2010-11 and a 7.11 increase in 2011-12. A 5.84 percent increase in 2010-11 and a 5.68 percent hike in 2011-12 are proposed for the PharmD program.

In accord with state law, 20 percent of the flat rate tuition increase for resident undergraduate students and 15 percent for resident graduate students would be set aside to provide financial aid grant assistance to Texas residents. The tuition hikes provide $3.2 million in financial aid funding in each year.

The committee will hold public forums on campus Jan. 20 and 26 and will meet with individual student governance groups to discus the recommendations and receive comments.

Powers is expected to review the TPAC recommendations and submit his final tuition increase proposal to the University of Texas System Board of Regents by Jan. 31, 2010.

According to the committee, without a tuition increase, the university would have to cut its budget by a minimum of $17.3 million in 2010-11 and $14.2 million in 2011-12 "simply to balance the budget."

Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Hegarty said even with prudent management, the result for students of the constrained tuition policy could include reduced course availability and reduced numbers of teaching assistants, assistant instructors, lecturers, faculty and staff. It also could mean reduced availability of equipment and technology and a reduction in academic and student services.

"The modest increases recommended by TPAC will avoid an overall budget reduction but they will not generate incremental funding for such items as salary increases, faculty hiring or increasing graduate student support," Hegarty said. "It is critically important that we continue to use the resources entrusted to us efficiently and effectively. We must continue our efforts to re-allocate monies from lesser to higher priorities which include funding salary increases, continuing to hire faculty and increasing graduate student support."

The report noted that tuition increases on the order of nearly 18 percent per year over the next two years would be required to fund the critical priorities that would enable the university to pursue new initiatives.

Visit the Tuition Dollars and Sense Web site to read the complete tuition recommendations report (PDF).

The committee said its tuition recommendations are within what can reasonably be expected of students and parents financially, given the context of the economic realities, expectations of tuition affordability and the legislative policy constraints under which the university must operate.

"These recommendations provide cost predictability for students and their families, provide transparency in pricing and accountability, maintain accessibility to the university and encourage timely progress toward degrees," the committee said.

In its recommendations, the committee said the monies generated from increasing tuition would provide the university about $17.2 million in 2010-11 and $18.1 million in 2010-11 after deducting the legally required set-aside for additional student financial aid. As was the case for 2008-10 tuition income projections, tuition income for 2010-11 and 2011-12 is based on an enrollment of 49,700 students. Any increase or decrease in the university's student population would affect the amount of money generated from the tuition.