Quotes to note: Talking points from TPAC

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The following quotes are from the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee’s open forum held Wednesday evening. TPAC, composed of four students, five faculty and administrators and three non-voting members, makes recommendations on tuition policy to President William Powers Jr., who then presents a recommendation to the Board of Regents, which is ultimately responsible for setting tuition.

“Tuition at this institution has gone up dramatically, and it has gone up past inflation. There were a number of reasons for that. We readily acknowledge that the total cost to attend, which includes fees, etc., has gone up dramatically.”
Kevin Hegarty, UT’s chief financial officer and co-chair of TPAC, on the realities of tuition trends at the University.

“We’re still keeping [future] revenue estimates flat. We’ve heard it could be a difficult [legislative] session next session as well, so we don’t know if this is a conservative estimate. It could get better; it could get worse.”
Mary Knight, associate vice president and budget director, on the projections of future state appropriations. According to the UT Budget Office’s presentation, the University received about $297 million in each of the past two years from the state for its academic core. Consequently, the committee is projecting UT will receive about the same amounts in the following two years as well.

“Any requests to increase tuition has to be tied to increase four-year graduation rates. The other thing is that the maximum amount [of a tuition increase] that can be requested is tied to the consumer price index, which is about 2.6 percent.”
— Student Government President Natalie Butler on the guidelines issued by the UT System for the committee and its counterparts at other system institutions as they deliberate on how much of a tuition increase to recommend. The consumer price index is a method to account for cost of living adjustments in the state.

“There are so many unknowns that we have a difficult time forecasting [what the cost of tuition should be for the next four years]. If we could bring some [certainty] over a four-year period of time in clumps of what that funding might be ... we’d love to say, ‘Here’s your rate and it’s fixed for four years.’”
— Hegarty on whether the committee has considered implementing four-year fixed tuition rates. Under UT’s current system, a tuition increase applies to all students — both current and incoming — whereas a four-year fixed tuition rate would increase tuition for incoming students but keep them the same for continuing ones.

“This university works very hard to ... be completely open and transparent so that you will see what the charges are. ... When students and families see a tuition bill for the University of Texas at Austin, that is what you pay, and that transparency is what we need to continue to work on.”
— Steven Leslie, provost and co-chair of TPAC, responding to a question about hidden fees in the cost of tuition.