AUSTIN, Texas—Using recommendations from the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee and information gained at public hearings, President Larry R. Faulkner will make a proposal prior to Nov. 3 to increase tuition at The University of Texas at Austin.
Faulkner will submit the proposal to The University of Texas System Board of Regents, which is to meet Nov. 18 to consider the proposed plan.
Student support for tuition hikes, while offered grudgingly by some, was evident among the sparse attendees of two open forums conducted on campus this month to discuss recommended tuition increases for the spring and fall semesters.
“I am for the raise, however unfortunate it is,” said Marc Eichenbaum, 21, a senior majoring in government and American studies. “I understand it’s a pressing need, and the university has to do it.”
The Tuition Policy Advisory Committee has proposed that full-time resident undergraduate students pay $361 more next spring. The panel also recommended an additional increase of $361for fall 2004 for a total increase of $722 per semester over fall 2003 tuition.
The committee, composed of students, faculty members and administrators appointed by Faulkner, also proposed that 28 percent of each dollar of the new “Academic Sustainability Tuition” be set aside for need-based financial aid.
According to the proposal, eligible students from families with $40,000 or less in annual family income will have 100 percent of the tuition increase covered by financial aid grants. Eligible students with family incomes between $40,001 and $60,000 will have 75 percent covered and eligible students in families with income between $60,001 and $80,000 will have about 50 percent paid for by grant aid. Tuition increases will provide about $20 million in grant-based financial aid.
The proposed tuition increase also would apply to full-time graduate students. Part-time students would be charged a pro-rated amount of the full-time rate. A full-time undergraduate student now pays, on average, $2,714 in tuition and fees per semester. If the proposal is approved, he or she will pay $3,075 next spring, a 13.3 percent increase.
The increases are in addition to the legislatively mandated $2 per semester credit hour increase for 2004-05.
At the public forums, committee co-chair Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer, said the increases are necessary because of reduced financial support from the Legislature and aging buildings in need of repair. Earlier this year, the Legislature gave universities the authority to set their own tuition rates.
“Affordability was the utmost priority the committee examined while setting a proposed new tuition rate,” said committee member Brian Haley, president of Student Government. “While the state mandated a 20 percent set-aside for financial aid, we felt that 28 percent was needed to ensure that the state’s flagship institution remains an affordable option for all Texans.
“The new Academic Sustainability Tuition is as simple as it sounds. As a result of a cut in state appropriations the university has been placed in a situation where it must charge this new tuition to sustain our academic integrity. After a careful review of the university’s financial situation, the committee decided unanimously that this proposal was the most appropriate action to pursue to ensure that both the educational integrity and the affordability of the university are sustained.”
For the current budget year, the university has about $40 million less than last year in state appropriations and income from the Permanent University Fund to support ongoing teaching and service operations.
The increases will provide $52 million, after allocation of financial aid, in the 2004-05 academic year, leaving a budget gap of $33.8 million that will require the university to continue to reduce costs and seek additional funding sources.
The increases will enable the university to maintain the quality of its academic programs and address critical repair and renovation of its facilities. Funds also will be targeted to efforts to attract and retain high quality faculty, said Sheldon Ekland-Olson, executive vice president and provost and co-chair of the committee. In his address on the state of the university last month, Faulkner emphasized the need for a solution for the university’s long-standing problems with funding for repair and renovation of facilities.
“The Sustainability Tuition we are recommending to President Faulkner will allow the university to responsibly sustain and provide access to the legacy of academic programs and physical facilities built by those who have come before us,” Ekland-Olson said. “This additional funding will not provide the resources necessary for the university and the state of Texas to compete at the highest levels nationally. To achieve this level of excellence, we will need to proceed aggressively with our ongoing budget assessment and the search for alternative sources of funding.”