Over the past decade, the amount of money given to UT as a percent of the state budget has decreased. Meanwhile, tuition has done just the opposite and has increased by thousands of dollars. The time has again come to reconsider tuition, and this time, students have a more significant voice than ever before. In the College of Liberal Arts, we, the members of the liberal arts College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee, have been diligently working to gather student input on this issue, and last week, we released our first set of recommendations to Dean Randy Diehl. They are based on lengthy deliberation, and they rely heavily on the results of a student survey and efforts to communicate with students through social media.
After a record number of responses from our survey, one thing is clear: Students in the college do not want a tuition increase. However, we recognize that this may be unavoidable. If that is the case, we would like to see those funds directed toward the top priorities of our students. These priorities include top faculty, smaller classes, advising and career services. We believe that increasing course availability is the best way to address these priorities, and with the students’ priorities in mind, the liberal arts CTBAC made two recommendations.
First, we recommended that the college improve advising services. This recommendation can be broken down into three parts. We recommend that students should be required to meet with an adviser or fill out an online advising form, with the caveat that they be able to opt out. We felt students would find this useful as they try to maintain their path to graduation and complete their degrees on time. Additionally, we recommended the training of advisers be refocused toward helping students graduate in four years. Finally, we would like to see students have the opportunity to sit down with an adviser and develop a personalized four-year graduation plan that would allow them to make sure they are on track from semester to semester. All of these advising changes would help students understand what classes they need to take and reduce the number of students unknowingly taking classes that do not count toward their degrees.
Second, we recommended that the college increase the number of summer courses it offers. Specifically, we would like to see the college provide six free hours of summer coursework to full-time liberal arts students. Also, we recommended that the college increase funding for a summer enrollment program for incoming freshmen with a specific concentration on those that are entering with few college credits. We believe the courses offered should include those that have corresponding Advanced Placement credits, core requirement classes that tend to be in high demand and prerequisite courses. This would allow students to acclimate to the rigor of classes at a top institution, improve course availability and increase academic integration. If implemented, these recommendations would improve graduation rates.
We are pleased with the consideration the deans of the college have given to our recommendations, and we applaud them for their dedication to student involvement.
Though tuition decisions will ultimately be made by the UT Board of Regents, they primarily affect students. We have worked hard to bring student input into this process, but student involvement does not end with our current recommendations. Many students have already engaged the issue of tuition, and we look forward to countless more joining us in the future.