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UT institutions present plans to raise tuition to improve student success, remain competitive among national peers

GALVESTON—After years of holding the line on tuition costs, The University of Texas System Board of Regents will consider increasing tuition and fees for the UT System’s academic institutions to ensure campuses can provide the best possible academic experience for their students.

At the Board of Regents meeting held on the campus of UT Medical Branch on Wednesday, UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven gave a presentation that outlined current conditions for UT’s academic campuses that leave them with fewer resources than their peers to retain faculty, improve student success and provide essential student services.

“The goal for all of our institutions is to offer the finest educational experience possible for our students at an affordable cost, provide the conditions for life-changing discoveries and ground-breaking research, and to ultimately produce graduates who will impact the world for good,” McRaven said. “The reality is, without additional revenues, it’s difficult to remain competitive.”

Most UT System in-state undergraduate students have seen little to no increase in tuition since fall 2012 and no increases in mandatory student fees since 2011. However, McRaven said the System’s academic institutions now are facing the need for significant additional resources because of the increase in costs associated with operating a university campus and the decline in per-student state appropriations over the last decade.

McRaven told regents he supports the campus requests, which average an increase of less than $2.78 per semester day for resident undergraduate students enrolled in traditional rate plans, but emphasized that students from low-income families will still benefit from grants and institutional support and many will continue to pay little to nothing to attend a UT school.

“Education is an investment. And it’s one that does not depreciate. In fact, it grows in value,” McRaven said. “Affordability is critically important. We will do absolutely everything in our power to ensure students who want to earn a college degree have the opportunity to do so, and we will be extremely sensitive to the issue of student debt, but we must also invest in our institutions to provide the world-class education that we pledge to deliver to our students.”

Proposals presented Wednesday call for increases among the various institutions of between 2 and 6.4 percent for resident undergraduate students and include detailed plans on how new revenue would be spent to serve students and provide faculty support.

For example, UT Austin plans to invest more in student success initiatives that have been proven to boost four-year graduation rates by providing support to keep students in school and on track to graduate. Other plans include developing next-generation degree programs that integrate research and teaching for undergraduate programs; improving post-graduate career placement; and redesigning programs with public/private partnerships and experiential learning.

The Board of Regents is expected to vote on the proposals later this month.

Late last year, regents authorized campuses to proceed with a consultative process that included students to develop recommendations for increases in tuition and fees for fiscal years 2017 and 2018. The authorization approved an increase of 2 percent per year to address inflation over the last several years, as well as “reasonable and prudent additional increases that address issues of greatest institutional priority.”

In his presentation, McRaven pointed out that UT Austin ranks 52nd on U.S. News and World Report’s 2016 National Universities rankings, and the next UT institution to make an appearance on the list is UT Dallas at 140. Meanwhile, the University of California has five campuses ranked in the Top 50.

“We’re not suggesting that rankings are the ultimate measure of success, but they are important,” according to UT System Deputy Chancellor David Daniel. “Tuition at UT institutions continues to lag well below tuition of their peers and, as per-student, inflation-adjusted appropriations for higher education have trended downward over the last few years, presidents have limited options to remain competitive.”

The board also heard proposals from UT System’s health institutions. UT System’s medical school tuition rates are far below the national average for public medical schools—approximately $15,000 a year lower at most UT medical schools—and will remain so even if regents approve requested increases. Debt loads for medical school graduates from UT System schools are also significantly lower than the national average for other public medical schools.

In 2014, UT System health institutions developed five-year tuition plans, with the Board of Regents considering tuition on a year-by-year basis. The board approved the plans’ first year in 2014 and second year in 2015. In late 2015, the board directed institutions to update the third and fourth year of the plans with student input. Those plans, presented to the board today, include a median proposed increase of 3 percent or less for each year. Tuition varies not just by institution, but by program, such as medicine, biomedical sciences or nursing.

“UT System health institutions are known around the country for producing outstanding graduates and providing a first-class education,” said Raymond S. Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., UT System’s executive vice chancellor for health affairs. “But we’re also known for being among the most affordable in the country. These proposed increases reflect our desire to remain affordable but continue to improve student services, offering access to the latest in health technology, and enhancing our students’ educational experience.”

Both the UT System and the Texas A&M System are fortunate to benefit from the University Lands. The roughly 2.1 million acres in West Texas generate revenue that flows into the Permanent University Fund, created by the Texas Constitution in 1876 to support UT and A&M institutions. However, there are restrictions on how the PUF can be used. The Texas Constitution stipulates that A&M gets one-third of the distribution from the PUF and UT gets two-thirds. The money can be used for three purposes:

  • Debt service for capital projects funded with PUF bonds;
  • Support and maintenance to build excellence at UT Austin, Texas A&M College Station and Prairie View A&M;
  • Support and maintenance of the UT and A&M system administrations.

So, while the PUF is instrumental for long-term investments, it cannot be used for operational costs at 13 of UT System’s 14 institutions.

About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking basic, applied and clinical research, and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States. With 14 institutions and an enrollment of more than 217,000, the UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates almost two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public institutions in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $16.9 billion (FY 2016) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 20,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates – and more than 70,000 health care professionals, researchers, student advisors and support staff, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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