Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman / Texas Tribune
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Kel Seliger told Texas university presidents Friday that it is “discouraging” that many of them are choosing to raise tuition this year, even after the Legislature increased higher education funding in 2015.
In a letter the two Republican leaders released Friday, Patrick and Seliger also asked for detailed information about the history of tuition at the public universities, saying they planned to study the issue before the Legislature reconvenes in 2017.
“The cost of higher education must remain at a level that is within reach of all Texans,” they said in a letter.
In the past six months, the University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University System, among others, have decided to raise tuition at their member universities. At UT-Austin, costs will rise by just over $300 per semester by 2017. At A&M, costs will go up by over $200 per semester by 2017.
Officials at both universities said they needed to keep up with the cost of inflation, and noted that students at Texas’ top universities will still pay less than students at most comparable schools elsewhere in the country.
The Texas Legislature controlled tuition costs until 2003, when that authority was ceded to the universities’ governing boards. Patrick has asked the Senate to study the effects of that deregulation and consider finding ways to reduce that costs.
Universities are stringently opposed to the Legislature taking back control. They acknowledge that costs have gone up since 2003. But, they argue, they went up faster for most schools in the decade before the Legislature gave up control.
Seliger and Patrick are asking to see the facts on issue for themselves. They have asked schools to provide their tuition rates since the 2002-03 school year, along with how annual mandatory fees have changed since then. They have also asked to see an overview of each university’s plans to reduce student debt and lower costs.
“Texans expect their elected representatives to protect their interests and to be stewards of public resources, including public universities,” Seliger and Patrick wrote.
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