Regents, McRaven clash over tuition increases

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Photo Credit: Iliana Storch | Daily Texan Staff

Chancellor William McRaven and the Board of Regents held a civil but spirited meeting over proposed tuition increases Wednesday in Galveston. 

“If you aggregate the increases, it’s less than $2.78 [more] a day,” McRaven said.

“How about seven cents a minute?” regent Alex Cranberg said. “I feel like we’re getting sold something.”

This lively exchange over tuition increases during the meeting captured the skepticism the Board of Regents displayed toward the proposed changes during their scheduled meeting in Galveston. At the time, they decided to take no action on tuition increases and vote on tuition increases later this month, according to UT System spokesperson Melanie Thompson. 

If passed, the proposed tuition increases will mark the first time tuition levels have changed at UT-Austin since a 4 percent increase in 2011. The proposed increase would cost students about $150 more each semester for the 2016-2017 and the 2017-2018 academic year. 

While McRaven and system institutions defend tuition increases as necessary for a high quality of education, some regents have pointed out the impact the tuition increase will have on students. 

McRaven said institutions need more tuition money to maintain competitive faculty salaries, fund research and invest in student success programs. Referring to a chart ranking UT-Austin 52nd nationally from U.S. News and World Report, McRaven said tuition increases could help UT keep rising in national rankings. 

“Most of our tuition and fees are at or well below the national average,” McRaven said. “This is really about staying competitive.” 

Cranberg said Pell Grants and other forms of fixed state and federal financial aid grants may not cover the full cost of the tuition increases, which would affect students in different ways. 

“[A student is] going to work an extra ten hours a month [to cover the tuition increase],” Cranberg said. “Maybe it’s Starbucks for some students, and it’s a couple weeks’ or a month of groceries for another student.” 

Financial aid will cover any increased student budget costs, but whether that money would come from grants or loans depends on each individual student, said Trina Manor, associate director of financial aid. 

“If the [student cost of attendance] budget increases, then we do our best to award financial aid to cover whatever the budget expenses are,” Manor said. 

Textiles and apparel junior Carolina Vaquera, who works 20 to 25 hours a week at Zara, said she may have to work five more hours a week to cover increased tuition costs. 

“I was thinking about doing another year to get more classes in,” Vaquera said. “If they increase the tuition, that’s going to be a big issue. The tuition isn’t going to be the same from when I started.” 

Rachel Osterloh, president of Senate of College Councils, said she doesn’t want a tuition increase, but realizes it is necessary for the sake of the university as a whole.

“Tuition needs to increase to maintain the integrity of a UT education,” said Osterloh, a government and philosophy senior. “I definitely don’t think it’s a long-term solution to the problem. The legislature needs to give us more funding.”