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Home | Tag Archives: texas college tuition

Tag Archives: texas college tuition

Texas Senators Weigh Bills that Would Limit College Tuition Growth

Ever since the Texas Legislature gave public universities the right set their own tuition in 2003, there have been attempts by lawmakers to revoke it.

On Wednesday, the Texas Senate began working on this year’s try. The Senate Higher Education Committee considered five bills that would halt, limit or slow tuition increases in the coming years.

Each one’s aim, their authors said, is to get control of fast-rising college costs. Average tuition and fees at public universities have climbed 148 percent in the past 15 years.

Each of the bills — some are written by Democrats, some by Republicans — has a unique plan to address affordability. Committee Chairman Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, said after the meeting that only one will probably make it through the committee.

“I see no way that you could have two of these in effect,” he said.

No winner was picked Wednesday, however. A vote could come in as soon as a week.

“Something, I think, will probably pass this time,” Seliger said.

Here are the choices the committee is considering:

Performance-based tuition increases:

Seliger’s favorite appears to be Senate Bill 543, which is no surprise as he is the senator who wrote it. The bill would allow universities to raise their tuition only if they meet six of 11 performance metrics set by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Those metrics would touch on schools’ administrative costs, graduation rates and the number of degrees awarded. It’s a slight twist on a coordinating board call for performance-based funding, which would tie state funding to performance metrics.

Tuition increases allowed under the plan would be limited to 1 percent for the first two years, and then 3 percent plus inflation after that.

University leaders appeared most open to that idea, though they asked lawmakers for a role in writing the rules. Texas Tech University System Chancellor Robert Duncan called it an “innovative approach.”

But the concept has drawn skepticism from some higher-education leaders, who have questioned whether tuition increases should be considered an award for good performance. The idea has the interest of some influential lawmakers. A similar bill passed the Senate in 2015, only to die in the House. The chairman of the House Higher Education Committee at the time, state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, has since expressed regret that the lower chamber didn’t look more closely at it.

Early in the current session, Zerwas said he’d like another chance to consider the idea. Since then, however, he has transitioned to lead the House Appropriations Committee. The new House Higher Education Committee chairman, state Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, hasn’t publicly weighed in on what the legislature’s role should be in limiting tuition issues.

Seliger was optimistic about its future after Wednesday’s meeting.

“Clearly, the performance-based tuition increase passed last time, and it probably seems to have the broadest appeal both to legislators and institutions,” he said.

Ban tuition increases until 2022:

Another bill by Seliger, Senate Bill 19, will likely get strong consideration, too. It would force universities to charge no more in tuition and fees than they do now for four consecutive school years beginning in the fall of 2018.

Schools could technically increase tuition for next year, but they would then have to lower it back down the year after. It also has the endorsement of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who listed it among his top 25 priorities in the current legislative session.

It’s unclear how the proposal would fare in the House, however, where attempts to freeze tuition have been greeted less favorably in the past.

Ban increases without student or legislative permission:

State Sens. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown and José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, are leaving the door open to future tuition increases, but only with permission. Schwertner, who is perhaps the most outspoken critic of high tuition in the Senate, has proposed a law that would ban tuition increases for one year, and cap them at the rate of inflation after that. He said Wednesday that student fee increases would have to be approved by a student election. Rodriguez’s billwould simply prevent schools from setting tuition at a higher rate than what they charge for 2017-18, unless the Legislature approves it.

Those ideas might be worrisome to universities, which have argued that one of the main reasons they have raised tuition in recent years is to make up for the shrinking per-student state support for higher education. What’s more, universities could be hit with big state funding cuts this year. If it were tougher for those schools to raise tuition, officials there would be limited in the ways they could make up that money.

“Our concern from the University of Houston is that the tuition freezes and limits being imposed might actually hurt the students that they are meant to help,” said UH Chancellor Renu Khator, explaining that an inability to raise revenue through tuition increases might prevent the school from hiring faculty, career advisers and mental health counselors.

Similar bills have been filed in the past, including by Schwertner, but have failed to make it to the governor’s desk.

Only allow tuition increases when state funding falls:

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, has proposed a solution that acknowledges university leaders’ concerns. Under Senate Bill 1323, universities would be banned from raising tuition except to “to make up any difference between core operational costs and state formula funding appropriations.” The bill would require the state’s Legislative Budget Board to review universities’ core costs every two years, and then require universities to come up with detailed plans to reduce those costs by 5 percent.

Zaffirini noted that basically the same bill passed the Senate in 2009 but that she wasn’t hopeful for 2017.

“If I thought the bill were going anywhere, I’d have” a few changes to make to it, she told the committee.

Read more about higher education in the Texas Tribune:

Disclosure: The University of Houston has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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Author:  MATTHEW WATKINS – The Texas Tribune

Lt. Gov. Patrick Slams Universities for Tuition Increases

In his most aggressive terms yet, Lt. Gov.Dan Patrick excoriated Texas universities for raising their tuition in recent years, suggesting that the Texas Senate will try to limit tuition growth when it reconvenes next year.

At a press conference Tuesday before a meeting of the Senate Higher Education Committee, Patrick pointed to graphs detailing how total academic charges at the state’s universities have grown 147 percent since 2002. Median household income in the United States has grown just 32 percent during that time, he said.

“People did not send us here to Austin to allow universities to raise tuition five times their salaries,” Patrick said.

Patrick said “everything is on the table” in terms of legislative remedies if such growth continues.

“What we are asking is for our universities to be as fiscally responsible as we ask ourselves to be and for our agencies to be,” he said. “They are not an exception.”

He later added, “They need to scrub their budgets like we scrub ours. Every dollar that they spend needs to be scrubbed.”

The average total cost at Texas’ four-year universities for an undergraduate taking 15 hours is $4,179. That’s up from $1,693 in 2002.

Patrick said he was particularly chagrined about tuition increases this year. Most schools in the state, including the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, will charge students more in the upcoming school year than they do this year. That’s true, Patrick said, even though the Legislature increased appropriations for the universities by $282 million in 2015.

“So many universities immediately — before the budget was dry — started raising tuition,” he said.

Patrick also raised several ideas that he said could immediately cut tuition costs by 25 percent. Most of that savings would come fromtxtbqt eliminating a state law that requires universities to set aside 20 percent of the tuition they collect so that money can be used for scholarships, work-study programs and other forms of financial aid, he said.

Patrick called that rule “nothing more than a hidden tax.”

“We need to end the 20 percent set-aside next session,” he said.

He also said that the universes should rein in administrative salaries and bonuses.  And he argued that the state should look at performance-based funding for universities rather than dispersing funding based on how many students enroll in each school.

The Legislature controlled tuition until 2003, when lawmakers ceded that power to the universities’ governing boards. Many university officials argue that tuition growth has slowed since then. At 29 of the state’s 38 universities, tuition grew faster in the last decade that the Legislature controlled it than it did in the first decade that the universities were allowed to set their own prices.

But Patrick said he was open to the Legislature re-taking control of tuition. And Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, said at the press conference he planned to reintroduce a bill that would require universities to meet certain performance metrics to raise tuition. He filed such a bill in 2015, but it didn’t become law.

Later at the hearing, higher education officials gently pushed back against some of Patrick’s arguments.

Raymund Paredes, commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, said he agreed that rising college costs are “troubling.” But, he said, “the fact is we are below the median cost of higher education in the country.”

Meanwhile, university officials said they were working hard to cut costs and that their tuition increases were necessary to keep up with a long-term decline in per-student state appropriations.

A&M Chancellor John Sharp said he appreciated the $282 million added to university budgets statewide in 2015. But when that money was divided up among all the schools in the state, it amounted to just over 50 cents per semester credit hour provided to each school.

“While last session’s appropriation was generous, it did not cover the rate of inflation,” Sharp said.

University leaders have long argued that tuition increases are the result of the dwindling share of state funding they receive. At UT-Austin, for example, state appropriations make up 12 percent of the budget. In 1984-85, that share was 47 percent.

But Patrick said the Legislature doesn’t deserve all the blame for that shift. Universities have raised prices so much that “even the Legislature can’t keep up,” he said.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Author:   – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues

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