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National Group Calls on UT System to Freeze Tuition

A Florida-based nonprofit is calling on public universities to freeze tuition — and it is kicking off a campaign by focusing on the University of Texas System.

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Advocates for a moratorium on tuition increases at public universities — specifically at the University of Texas System — will attempt to deliver bags of ice to the Capitol offices of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and other key officials this afternoon as part of their “Freeze Tuition Now” campaign.

The campaign is part of an initiative of the Florida-based Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, a national nonprofit focused on education reform and issues relating to school choice in K-12 through a Hispanic lens.

Albert Collazo, a spokesman for the organization, said the nonprofit plans to move into other states after starting the campaign in Texas.

“We are very interested in Texas, because there is a very large Hispanic population,” Collazo said. “We know in Texas and in many other states, the cost of tuition when it comes to higher education is something of great concern when it comes to access for students and parents, as well.”

The campaign is currently focusing solely on the UT System. Collazo said the campaign may expand to other university systems in Texas, but the group wanted to begin with a focused effort on institutions that many Hispanics seek to access.

The UT System Board of Regents had planned to vote on requested tuition increases at a meeting this month, but the item was left off the agenda, leaving students in the dark as to what they can expect to pay in the fall semester.

Universities in the system had requested a range of tuition increases, from no increase at the University of Texas at Arlington from fall 2011 to fall 2012, to a $209 rise at the University of Texas at Dallas over the same period.

The regents are expected revisit the issue next month.

"The UT System has a robust tuition and fee recommendation process in place and the current analysis of the campus recommendations is ongoing," said UT System spokesman Anthony de Bruyn. "The Chancellor will ultimately make recommendations regarding any tuition and fee increases in public and the Board will then discuss the matter and vote."

The UT System was one of the focal points of a contentious debate last spring over reforming higher education and boosting faculty productivity. The rhetoric has cooled recently, but this outside effort could rekindle some of it.

According to materials that the Freeze Tuition Now team intends to distribute today, it frowns upon any university efforts to balance a shrinking budget that include raising tuition, asking for more money from the state or federal government or cutting adjunct faculty. The group writes that "a better answer, plain and simple" is for universities to become more "efficient, accountable and transparent" while keeping tuition steady.

Collazo said it is in the interest of the state and the country to keep tuition low for Hispanic students. “Latinos are the fastest-growing population in this country, and our economic viability depends on the education of our students,” he said.

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