Tuition, financial aid rise at four-year public colleges

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Four-year public universities nationwide have increased their tuition and fees by almost 8 percent this year.

But students might not have felt the full effects of the increases because financial aid has also increased, according to College Board reports. There has been a $10 billion increase in Pell grants, which has helped keep what students actually pay down.

The report said average tuition and fees have increased by about 24 percent in the past four years. Students receive an average of $6,100 in grant aid and federal tax benefits at public, four-year universities.

“Tuition was deregulated in 2003,” said Lizette Montiel, assistant director for state relations for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. “So institutions have the authority to increase or lower tuition as they see fit. But the legislature makes the decisions on how much financial aid or state grant money will go to the institution or how much is allocated.”

Thomas Melecki, director of UT’s student financial services, said the cost of running institutions continues to increase.

“Higher education is a fairly labor intensive business,” Melecki said. “You have to have top-notch faculty and staff. Higher education competes for those folks.”

The tuition at UT increased by about 3.95 percent this year — well below the national average.

Inflation is part of the issue that has increased tuition costs, Melecki said. He also said legislative appropriation is part of the problem.

“While we are grateful for them, they haven’t been growing at nearly the rate of inflation over the past several years,” Melecki said. “So if we are going to maintain a quality institution with good faculty and staff, it takes a certain amount of money to make sure you can do that.”

Melecki said there are many efforts on campus attempting to prevent raising tuition.

“We are trying to figure out ways we can be more efficient about spending money,” he said.

Virginia resident and history sophomore Britainy Schwoebel said that she would not have been able to attend UT without financial aid.

“It’s about $40,000 to $45,000 a year to be out of state,” Schwoebel said. “My family is pretty well off but that is not the type of money someone has lying around, especially after the economic downturn. UT was my dream school so I am glad I got to go here.”