UT's guaranteed tuition plan enrollment below expectations

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In the University’s first semester offering a guaranteed tuition plan, the number of students who signed up for the four-year fixed rate fell below University projections.

The UT System Board of Regents approved the University’s first guaranteed tuition plan in May in accordance with House Bill 29, which was passed by the Texas Legislature in 2013. The bill mandated that all Texas institutions of higher education offer a four-year fixed tuition plan to incoming freshmen and transfer students. The plan locks its students into the same tuition rate for each semester they attend the University. At the meeting, the University proposal projected between 2,000 to 3,000 students would sign up for the plan.

According to University records, 1,094 students have opted into the plan — called “Longhorn Fixed Tuition” — since its implementation this fall. Including UT-Austin students, 1,640 students have registered for the guaranteed tuition plan across System schools, according to the System. This total does not include UT–Rio Grande Valley and UT-Dallas.

UT freshmen and transfer students who enrolled in the plan for this fall are currently paying a fixed tuition rate of 8 percent over the fall 2013 traditional cost. In fall 2015, the guaranteed plan will be set at 4 percent more than the fall 2014 guaranteed plan cost. The University also offers a $3,500 rebate to
guaranteed plan students who graduate in four years.

Mary Knight, the University’s associate vice president for financial affairs, said new students were informed of the plan through emails and at orientation sessions during the summer. She said the enrollment numbers might be low because many students may have decided to risk the fluctuations in tuition costs rather than pay more money up front. 

“The rate for the fixed tuition is actually higher than the traditional [rate], and that is just to account for the fact that costs will go up over the four-year period,” Knight said. “Each student needs to decide what their financial situation is, and I can’t predict what that decision is or why they made that decision.”

The Board of Regents approved the guaranteed tuition plan, which was implemented at all System universities, at the same meeting when it decided not to increase undergraduate in-state tuition rates for the 2014-2015 academic year. Because tuition rates are not going up, students who opted into the plan are paying more money for tuition this academic year. If the regents decided to increase tuition in future years, students under the guaranteed plan would keep their current rate.

Since 2009, UT-Dallas has automatically enrolled new students into a guaranteed tuition plan upon their entrance into its university.

Matt Sanchez, director of new student enrollment at UT-Dallas, said even though traditional plan tuition did not go up this year, families and students enrolled in the plan have peace of mind that their tuition and fees will not be increasing for the next four years.

“If anything, what’s nice is today’s freshmen are getting the benefit of the tuition freeze because they’re paying what the fall 2013 [freshmen] are paying, and they’re going to get that same rate for four years,” Sanchez said.