For In-State Students, UT System Keeps Tuition Steady

UT System Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster during a meeting on Dec. 12, 2013.
UT System Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster during a meeting on Dec. 12, 2013.

The University of Texas System Board of Regents voted Tuesday to keep tuition stable for in-state students at all of the system's academic institutions.

Over the summer, the chancellor and vice chancellors will work to identify other sources of revenue to make up for the lack of additional tuition at the campuses. Those plans are expected be presented at the board's meeting in August.

"We're looking forward to working with the chancellor and chairman to identify those recurring funds that are needed to maintain excellence at UT," Gary Susswein, a University of Texas at Austin spokesman, said Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, the board approved optional four-year fixed tuition plans for the system's campuses. Those plans start with a higher rate in a student's first year to account for expected tuition increases.

Paul Foster, the board's chairman, said that while he would like to say tuition will never go up again, the board cannot tie the hands of a future board. Of the benefits of the fixed-tuition plan, he said, "If you're an incoming freshman and you want to know what it's going to cost you for four years, you have an alternative."

 

At a meeting last week, the board had approved proposed tuition increases for out-of-state and health science campus students. However, a vote on tuition rates for in-state students was postponed until Tuesday in the hope that strategies could be concocted to make increases for such students unnecessary.

Foster said the decision was at least in part a response to a request from Gov. Rick Perry, who wrote him a letter Thursday morning urging the board to consider alternatives to tuition hikes. 

"To put a college degree within reach for more students and combat the epidemic of student indebtedness, we should place a far greater emphasis on controlling the spiraling costs of a college education," the governor wrote. Perry has also been a vocal advocate of four-year fixed tuition options.

Last week's meeting also featured calls from Foster and other regents for Wallace Hall, their fellow board member, to resign. Hall has been the focus of controversy and a legislative investigation — a committee has said grounds for impeachment exist — for his aggressive approach to serving as a regent. Hall has denied any wrongdoing. In a letter to Foster on Monday, he said he would not be resigning.

Foster said he was prepared to move on. "As far as I'm concerned, that's history," he told reporters Tuesday.

Much of the tension surrounding Hall has been his repeated demands for information from the UT-Austin administration. At Tuesday's meeting, there was a lengthy discussion surrounding proposed changes to the board's rules relating to regents' information requests.

There were differing views on the proposal, which called for a regent whose request was objected to by a chancellor or chairman to get other regents to support his or her request before it could move forward. 

Hall called the plan "a real imposition" for those who desire to ask campuses for data. Foster said that was "clearly not the intent."

 

"If a chairman were to use this rule to deliberately delay, then shame on that chairman," Foster said.

Regent Alex Cranberg, who has also made data requests of universities, said he was sympathetic to points made by those who supported the changes. "It's helpful for the entire board to hear about an issue about which there is a difference of opinion," he said.

After the discussion, a tweaked version of the proposed rule changes passed unanimously. It says that in the event of a disputed request, the matter shall be presented to the board within 21 days, and if two or more regents support the request, it shall be fulfilled. The rule changes also explicitly say that individual regents are not authorized to record the board's executive sessions, as one of them was recently revealed to have done.

Additionally on Tuesday, the board voted to officially name former Texas Tech University President Guy Bailey the inaugural president of the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, which is expected to open in 2015. Though the institution will not open its doors until next year, Bailey, who had previously been named the sole finalist for the position, will start in his position on June 15.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. Paul Foster is a major donor to the Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.