Senator José Rodríguez’s S.B. 442, which returns control of college tuition to the Texas Legislature, was heard in the Senate Higher Education Committee Wednesday.
Prior to 2003, the Legislature had regulatory authority to set tuition rates, generally mandating that the same tuition rate be charged across the state. Then the Legislature passed House Bill 3015 (78R), which allowed unelected governing boards of public universities to set higher tuition rates.
Since tuition deregulation, the average cost of higher education has risen sharply. Increasing costs are pushing families to incur larger debt loads to attend state schools and pricing others out of higher education altogether.
“If the legislature is truly concerned about managing tuition, we should make those decisions ourselves,” Senator Rodríguez said. “Universities would make their case for tuition increases – just like state agencies make funding requests – and the buck should stop with us elected lawmakers.”
Senator Rodríguez’s bill is one of several approaches being considered by legislators in response to the tuition issue. Tuition and fees at Texas’ 38 academic institutions climbed 78 percent between 2003 and 2016, according to an analysis of Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board data by the Center for Public Policy Priorities. At the same time, state funding for higher education has declined. Adjusting for inflation, the state’s per-student funding has declined 27 percent since 2003, according to the Coordinating Board.
SB 442 would cap tuition at the amount charged during the 2017-18 academic year beginning in the fall 2018 semester. The bill would force the Legislature to authorize any increases in tuition after that academic year and once again be directly accountable to students and families for their funding of higher education.
NOTE: Senator Rodríguez authored an op-ed in the Texas Tribune’s TribTalk on the subject in May, 2016. It can be found here.