UT System holding off tuition proposal input until spring

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For the second year in a row, the UT System delayed sending the University the information needed to form its Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, the group in charge of recommending any tuition changes to the Board of Regents.

System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said the TPAC information has not been sent out yet because of the upcoming change in leadership within the System. Retired Navy Adm. William McRaven is set to become the next System chancellor in January, succeeding Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.

“Chancellor Cigarroa did not want to presuppose what course of action Adm. McRaven may want to take on tuition,” LaCoste-Caputo said in an email.  

UT spokeswoman Maria Arrellaga said the University has taken no action to form TPAC because it is waiting for direction from the System to proceed. 

According to the University, TPAC’s main purpose is to make recommendations to President William Powers Jr. about the amount of tuition needed to fund UT’s forecasted academic core budget, which includes faculty salary and utility expenses. The committee also recommends graduate and undergraduate tuition rates for all University colleges, excluding the School of Law, McCombs School of Business and the College of Pharmacy, as those rates are set in consultation with the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, rather than TPAC. 

After making any necessary changes to the tuition proposal, the president submits it to the Board of Regents for final approval at its May meeting. 

In fall 2013, the University was unable to form a full TPAC — which consists of nine members, including student leaders and faculty members — because the System delayed the request for a tuition proposal reflecting student input. An ad hoc committee was formed in its place, consisting of three student leaders. When the System asked the committee to revise its proposal in the spring semester, the committee was later expanded to include seven students. Both times, the System gave the committee a shorter deadline to turn in a proposal in comparison to previous years.

Although the board usually approves University tuition rates for two years, the regents decided to not increase undergraduate in-state tuition for one year at the urging of Gov. Rick Perry. The regents did increase out-of-state undergraduate tuition by 2.6 percent — but also for only one year.

Geetika Jerath, Senate of College Councils president, and Student Government President Kori Rady have both told The Daily Texan they have not been contacted by University administrators or the UT System about TPAC. 

Currently, the Senate has its college tuition and budget advisory committees looking at other areas of the student budget. Jerath said she will work with that committee to research tuition options for students if a TPAC is formed. 

“Hopefully, we get that information and instructions soon if that is planned to happen in the spring so that we can take that time to go through the process,” Jerath said. 

If the Board of Regents reevaluates tuition, Jerath said she is confident students will be included in the process. She said an ad hoc committee, like the one formed last year, is another option for student input if tuition decisions are tight on time. 

Rady said he is not concerned that the TPAC has not formed yet. 

“It’s too early to have any sort of sentiment,” Rady said. “I haven’t heard anything from the System. I haven’t heard anything from UT either. It’s too early to know if there will be any problems. I don’t anticipate any issues.”

According to computer science junior Mukund Rathi, since the tuition is examined at set times, student leaders have known that tuition needs to be reexamined and should be working to do so.

“Since they only submitted a one-year proposal last year, they know well in advance that they’re going to have to get started on that process,” Rathi said. “It’s pretty clear that this issue — tuition increases — is not a priority of student leaders.”

Rathi, who was critical of how tuition decision were handled by the University last year, said he thinks student leaders should start sending out new referendums to measure student opinion.

“If the goal of the student leaders is to figure out what student opinion is, then they need to actually take those steps to figure that out,” Rathi said.