Though deadline for graduate students looms, University has not set tuition

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Prospective graduate students consider a number of factors when deciding what school they want to attend in the fall: the professors with whom they will work, the location of the campus and, of course, the price tag. For students looking to attend UT in the fall, this third factor has a question mark attached.

Graduate student tuition, which must be approved by the UT System Board of Regents, has not yet been set for the 2013-2014 school year. Nearly all prospective graduate students in the nation must accept a financial offer by April 15 as part of an agreement by the Council of Graduate Schools, of which UT is a member. The next board meeting is May 8.

UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said she was not sure when the board would set tuition rates. 

“I believe there was discussion about potentially putting something on the May agenda, but that hasn’t been decided yet,” LaCoste-Caputo said. 

On even-numbered years, the board typically sets tuition for all of the System’s schools for two-year periods. In May 2012, the board set tuition for all undergraduate students for two years, but did not take similar action for graduate students. According to members in the Office of Accounting, the board typically does not wait this long to announce tuition.

Michael Morton, outgoing president of the Senate of College Councils, said the uncertainty surrounding next year’s tuition rates is already having negative repercussions for graduate students. 

“For any student, not knowing what their tuition rate is going to be puts them in a state of uncertainty,” Morton said. “They don’t know what they can or cannot afford — graduate students don’t know what options they have in terms of teaching assistant benefits or assistant instructor benefits, and really, they’re at a loss in terms of what their financial outlook is going to be.”

Columbia Mishra, president elect of the Graduate Student Assembly, said the delay of the tuition announcement will especially affect international students. Mishra is a mechanical engineering graduate student from the West Bengal region of India. 

“When I was applying from India, I asked myself, ‘What are my other options, and what do other universities have?’” Mishra said. “By delaying the availability of this information, the University risks losing some very talented students who may decide to go elsewhere because of uncertainty here.” 

Mishra said the most important function of tuition is to allow students to plan ahead. 

“Students in colleges without graduate fellowships or scholarships tend to feel the impact more, and they need to prepare,” Mishra said. “You need to know what your tuition will be, just as you need to know if your rent is going to increase in six months, because even if it’s by 2 percent or 3 percent, you might have to take out loans — or you might have to move.”

Correction: An early version of this story misattributed a quote. It was Michael Morton, not Michael Redding, who spoke about the repercussions of next year's tuition rates.