Gov. Perry demands frozen four-year tuition for students, proposes more funding for higher graduation rates

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses the media at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Texas Gov. Rick Perry renewed demands for four-year tuition freezes and $10,000 degrees at Texas public universities during a news conference Monday afternoon.

Perry said he wants to improve higher education accessibility and affordability during the upcoming legislative session. Perry said as more young Texans consider college, four-year tuition freezes and $10,000 degree plans would help Texas better meet the demand for higher education.

“Implementing these measures will meet the growing demand for higher education in a way that provides encouragement for students to complete their degree in a timely fashion and with financial certainty,” Perry said.

Perry first mentioned four-year tuition freezes Sept. 21 at the Texas Tribune Festival, an annual event that presents various panels on Texas politics and issues. The freeze would guarantee students would pay the same tuition rate every year for the first four years. Perry said students could expect their tuition to increase after that.

UT-El Paso and UT-Dallas both allow students to lock in their tuition for four years. In Texas, Perry said fewer than 30 percent of students graduate in four years. UT Austin’s four-year graduation rate was 52.2 percent for the 2011-2012 school year.

UT spokesperson Gary Susswein said the University is on the same page as Perry in terms of four-year graduation rates.

“We agree with Gov. Perry that there’s nothing more important than helping students keep down the cost of college by graduating in four years,” Susswein said. “That’s why President Powers is committed to raising our four-year graduation rate to 70 percent over the next five years.”

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa released a statement Monday after Perry’s conference, but he did not say whether he supports a four-year tuition freeze at all UT System institutions.

Cigarroa said the UT System plans to release a financial disclosure statement that shows students how much a college education will cost over four, five and six years.

Perry also called for outcome-based funding at his news conference, a structure that would tie 10 percent of an institution’s funding to the number of its graduating students.

Susswein said the University would receive more funding under Perry’s proposed format because UT-Austin graduates more students than any other Texas institution.

“The state’s funding formulas currently reward institutions that offer more credit hours each semester,” he said. “Shifting the incentive towards degrees is something we would welcome.”

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said there is standing support for Perry’s initiatives in the Legislature.

Zaffirini co-sponsored a bill in 2011 directing the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop recommendations for funding policies similar to Perry’s. She said it is an initiative she plans to pursue in the upcoming session.

“Increasing graduation rates based on percentages might be easier for Texas State rather than UT-Austin because [UT’s] rate is already higher,” Zaffirini said. “But everybody can still be expected to improve as long as we recognize one size does not fit all.”

Zaffirini said each university would have to work with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to find specific metrics adaptable by each institution.

Printed on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 as: Perry proposes lower tuition rates