Tuition Policy Advisory Committee

For the second year in a row, the UT System delayed sending the University the information needed to form its Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, the group in charge of recommending any tuition changes to the Board of Regents.

System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said the TPAC information has not been sent out yet because of the upcoming change in leadership within the System. Retired Navy Adm. William McRaven is set to become the next System chancellor in January, succeeding Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.

“Chancellor Cigarroa did not want to presuppose what course of action Adm. McRaven may want to take on tuition,” LaCoste-Caputo said in an email.  

UT spokeswoman Maria Arrellaga said the University has taken no action to form TPAC because it is waiting for direction from the System to proceed. 

According to the University, TPAC’s main purpose is to make recommendations to President William Powers Jr. about the amount of tuition needed to fund UT’s forecasted academic core budget, which includes faculty salary and utility expenses. The committee also recommends graduate and undergraduate tuition rates for all University colleges, excluding the School of Law, McCombs School of Business and the College of Pharmacy, as those rates are set in consultation with the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, rather than TPAC. 

After making any necessary changes to the tuition proposal, the president submits it to the Board of Regents for final approval at its May meeting. 

In fall 2013, the University was unable to form a full TPAC — which consists of nine members, including student leaders and faculty members — because the System delayed the request for a tuition proposal reflecting student input. An ad hoc committee was formed in its place, consisting of three student leaders. When the System asked the committee to revise its proposal in the spring semester, the committee was later expanded to include seven students. Both times, the System gave the committee a shorter deadline to turn in a proposal in comparison to previous years.

Although the board usually approves University tuition rates for two years, the regents decided to not increase undergraduate in-state tuition for one year at the urging of Gov. Rick Perry. The regents did increase out-of-state undergraduate tuition by 2.6 percent — but also for only one year.

Geetika Jerath, Senate of College Councils president, and Student Government President Kori Rady have both told The Daily Texan they have not been contacted by University administrators or the UT System about TPAC. 

Currently, the Senate has its college tuition and budget advisory committees looking at other areas of the student budget. Jerath said she will work with that committee to research tuition options for students if a TPAC is formed. 

“Hopefully, we get that information and instructions soon if that is planned to happen in the spring so that we can take that time to go through the process,” Jerath said. 

If the Board of Regents reevaluates tuition, Jerath said she is confident students will be included in the process. She said an ad hoc committee, like the one formed last year, is another option for student input if tuition decisions are tight on time. 

Rady said he is not concerned that the TPAC has not formed yet. 

“It’s too early to have any sort of sentiment,” Rady said. “I haven’t heard anything from the System. I haven’t heard anything from UT either. It’s too early to know if there will be any problems. I don’t anticipate any issues.”

According to computer science junior Mukund Rathi, since the tuition is examined at set times, student leaders have known that tuition needs to be reexamined and should be working to do so.

“Since they only submitted a one-year proposal last year, they know well in advance that they’re going to have to get started on that process,” Rathi said. “It’s pretty clear that this issue — tuition increases — is not a priority of student leaders.”

Rathi, who was critical of how tuition decision were handled by the University last year, said he thinks student leaders should start sending out new referendums to measure student opinion.

“If the goal of the student leaders is to figure out what student opinion is, then they need to actually take those steps to figure that out,” Rathi said.

On Friday, a committee of student leaders submitted a tuition proposal to the UT System Board of Regents, settling on a suggested 2.6 percent increase for both in-state and out-of-state undergraduates tuition rates, with no changes to graduate or professional student rates. 

The proposal also included a guaranteed tuition plan, in which students would pay a predetermined rate for four years, with a guaranteed 4 percent increase every year. 

The tuition proposal comes after three months of back-and-forth between the students on the committee — whose original December proposal suggested a 3.6 percent increase for out-of-state undergraduates — students against raising tuition rates and the UT administration, the last of which contributed to the bungling of the process by changing its mind part-way through the process and re-issuing a request for a tuition proposal that only gave student leaders a month to put together a final proposal. 

The increase would raise the weighted-average tuition for in-state undergraduates from $4,899 to $5,026 and from $16,921 to $17,361 for out-of-state undergraduates, if approved.

Although tuition proposals typically come from the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, established with nine members including student leaders and faculty, the current proposal comes from a committee that started out with three students — including the Student Government and Senate of College Council presidents — and that in February was expanded to include four more students, including the Graduate Student Assembly president, after the UT System abruptly reissued its request for a tuition proposal. Both groups were given just a matter of weeks to settle on a proposal that reflected student input, which is why the proposal was assembled by a small committee instead of a full TPAC. 

In an attempt to gather more student input, the second tuition proposal process involved a number of town halls where students voiced criticism of the December plan and of tuition increases altogether, before the committee finally landed on the 2.6 percentage for both in- and out-of-state tuition raises.

Clearly, the group tasked with creating the tuition proposal has gone through the wringer, facing harsh public criticism from students and difficult time restraints from the UT System. “We did the very best that we could given the time restraints, but ultimately, the fact that we were given a month to come back with a tuition proposal prevented us from forming TPAC,” Andrew Clark, the President of the Senate of College Councils, said. 

Students may be unhappy about the tuition raise, but it’s important to keep in mind that the group wasn’t in much of a position to protest the regents’ directives. And it’s worth noting that, should the group’s proposed increases prove difficult for students if accepted by the regents, this recommendation, unlike previous TPAC proposals, is only for one, not two, years.

If there’s something to be upset about in this year’s tuition-setting process, it’s that even though the purpose of a committee like TPAC is to give a voice to students, this year, student voices were lost and limited by the ever-shifting deadlines handed down by UT System administration. 

In an environment of decreasing state funding, tuition increases seem increasingly inevitable, making them slightly easier to stomach. But students need to be able to raise questions about what other options are on the table to make up for this loss of funds from the state.

In reissuing the tuition proposal, the UT System may have included students on a potential tuition increase, but in giving students on the committee such short turn around times and not clearly expressing the reason for doing so, they limited the involvement of students in a process that directly affects them.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

At the request of the UT System Board of Regents, a working group of student leaders will now consider up to a 2.6 percent increase for in-state undergraduate tuition in addition to the 3.6 percent out-of-state increase proposed in December.

In 2012, the UT System did not approve any tuition increases at the University and allocated $13.2 million from the Available University Fund to offset tuition and fee increases for 2013 and 2014.

In December, the ad hoc committee of three student leaders, which replaced UT’s Tuition Policy Advisory Committee because of time constraints, created a proposal that requested the hike in out-of-state undergraduate tuition. No changes to in-state undergraduate or graduate-student tuition were initially proposed.

The new working group now has seven student leaders, including graduate students, who were not involved in December’s proposal. The group will have one month to create a new proposal for a one-year cycle. In previous years, tuition has been set for a two-year cycle.

Andrew Clark, Senate of College Councils president, said the working group has met once and will allow students to give their input at the Student Government, Graduate Student Assembly and Senate meetings this week.

“I’m personally very frustrated by the lack of time,” Clark said. “We certainly would have much preferred to do the regular [TPAC] process where we have a couple months to really make this a data-driven experience and use more opportunities for student engagement.”

Clark said the working group has decided graduate student tuition will not increase, and no further decisions will be reached until forums are held with students.

“We will use these meetings as an opportunity to host a forum, do a presentation to explain where we are and some possibilities that may be considered and open it up for questions and comments,” Clark said.

GSA President Columbia Mishra said GSA requested through legislation in February to be involved in any tuition discussions — whether graduate tuition is discussed or not. Graduate students were not involved in December’s proposal.

“Everyone should come and take part, as it is indeed an important issue,” Mishra said. “Getting the word out to the students now is critical.”

Wanda Mercer, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, said, although there are time constraints, the decision must be made before the semester ends.

“You can’t have quite as widespread of a discussion in six weeks’ time as you can in three months’ time, but, on the other hand, we must get these decisions made by early summer, so students can understand what their tuition and fees are going to be,” Mercer said.

Mercer believes that the instructions for the new proposal were sent out because other universities, such as Texas A&M, created a guaranteed plan that would have significant increases in funding.

“The bottom line is the board members agreed to hear what the presidents [of all UT System universities] would like to do for at least one year,” Mercer said. “They have an opportunity not only to submit that but talk to members of the board.” 

Mercer said the debate around the tuition proposal is important to the University.

“I’m glad students are interested, and I find it reassuring that there’s a healthy debate about it,” Mercer said. “It’s an investment they are making in their future.”

Correction: This article has been updated since its original posting. Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this story misstated the proposed percent increase for in-state undergraduate tuition. The committee's proposal is recommending a 2.6 percent increase.

On February 19, the Graduate Student Assembly passed legislation asking that a GSA member be included in all conversations involving tuition on campus. The resolution comes after graduate student representation was left out of the 2015-2017 tuition working group. That group’s recommendations included increasing out-of-state undergraduate tuition by 3.6 percent while maintaining tuition rates for in-state undergraduates and all graduate and professional students. The recommendations were quickly stamped by President William Powers Jr. and sent off to the UT System for consideration, unnecessarily leaving out two segments of the UT community: graduate students and faculty. That GSA is not upset over the outcome, as the committee recommended not to increase any graduate tuition rates, is no matter. The lack of inclusion of graduate students in the tuition discussion sets an unfortunate precedent, and GSA was right to draw attention to it. 

Senate of College Councils President Andrew Clark was one of the three members on the committee, which included Student Government President Horacio Villarreal and finance and government senior Michelle Moon. The committee stands as the temporary replacement for the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, known as TPAC. Clark told the Texan in January that the UT System’s instructions for the committee came in so late that the full committee could not form and the slimmed-down working group was tasked with the recommendations without the GSA or input from faculty members.

“TPAC has always been a holistic process with a lot of data collection, information gathering and open forums to voice their opinions on tuition,” Clark told the Texan in January. “Given that we were under time constraints, we did not feel like we had the ability to do a full-scale TPAC like we did in years past.”

Two years ago, when tuition rates were last set, TPAC stood in full force with five faculty members and four student members, including the GSA president at the time.

TPAC was first introduced in 2003 in an effort to include student voices in the debate over tuition. By leaving out GSA this year, 13,000 graduate students had no say in the matter. Granted, only 507 graduate students voted in GSA executive alliance election in late February, indicating only a fraction of graduate views are even reaching GSA. 

Now, because the System dragged its feet in providing instruction for the committee, the group’s recommendations for the next two years will stand, hastily considered and without any input from a group that constitutes more than one-fifth of the student body. With an issue as important as setting tuition, no committee should be rushed into a decision, no graduate students should feel silenced and no faculty advice should be bypassed. The System did no one any favors with the way they handled these recommendations, and it should recognize its mistake long before the 2018-2020 committee takes shape and honor GSA’s request for more graduate student involvement. ‚Äč

 

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

An ad hoc committee of student leaders, working to replace UT’s Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, proposed to increase tuition for out-of-state undergraduates by 3.6 percent after a process involving almost no student input. 

Andrew Clark, Senate of College Councils president, said the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee did not have a full semester to plan its proposal because the UT System did not send instructions until mid-semester. 

Since 2003, a committee, made up of University officials and student leaders, are tasked with recommending the rate of tuition for undergraduate and graduate students required to fund the academic budget on a biennial basis. The committee’s recommendation must be approved by the University president and the UT System Board of Regents to take effect. 

This year, a working group of three students was set up in place of the committee. The group is made up of Clark, Student Government president Horacio Villarreal and Michelle Moon, a finance, business honors and government senior.

“TPAC has always been a holistic process with a lot of data collection, information gathering and open forums to voice their opinions on tuition,” Clark said. “Given that we were under time constraints, we did not feel like we had the ability to do a full-scale TPAC like we did in years past.”

In the proposal, the group recommended that no change in tuition for graduate students and resident undergraduates, but requested that non-resident undergraduate students receive a 3.6-percent tuition adjustment.

According to UT spokesman Gary Susswein, President William Powers, Jr. has already endorsed the student recommendation and sent it to the UT System.

Laura Grisham, an undeclared freshman and out-of-state student from Missouri, said the decision to raise non-resident tuition was alarming.

“It would make sense if they had more open meetings,” Grisham said. “At least those out-of-state students would understand why the proposal was made to raise out-of-state tuition.”

The only opportunity for student involvement came when the tuition reports were presented at the Student Government and Senate of College Councils meetings during the last week of classes in December.

“We didn’t feel like there was enough time to really seek the campus’ opinion on tuition, and we didn’t feel it would be right to potentially raise people’s tuition without a chance to give them an opportunity to voice their opinions,” Clark said.

The working group’s decision to request a change in out-of-state tuition was determined by the request made by the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee in 2011.

“The reason we went with that number was because the 2011 TPAC process was the last time that the campus had a real opportunity to voice its opinions and engage in tuition,” Clark said.

He said the working group also made sure the University would comply with House Bill 29 — passed in the 83rd Texas Legislature — which requires all institutions to offer a four-year fixed-rate tuition plan for entering students.

Clarification: The headline for this story has been changed since its original posting.

How would a tuition increase affect you?

The Tuition Policy Advisory Committee will hold an open forum from 4 to 5 p.m. today in ACE 2.302 to gather input on its proposed tuition increase.

 

The committee submitted a proposal to President William Powers Jr. on Monday requesting a tuition increase of 2.6 percent for resident undergraduates and 3.6 percent for nonresident undergraduates and for all graduate students.

 

Powers will make a tuition recommendation to the Board of Regents by Dec. 15, and today's forum is students’ last opportunity to give the committee and Powers input beforehand. The UT System Board of Regents will review tuition policy in March.

 

If the Board of Regents approves the committee’s recommendations, resident undergraduates would pay $127 more each semester in 2012-13 and $131 more each semester in 2013-14. Nonresident undergraduates would pay between $560 and $642 more each semester in 2012-13 and between $580 and $665 more each semester in 2013-14.

 

Attend the open forum this afternoon, and show Powers and the committee how a tuition increase would affect you and your education.

 

Of course, the forum comes amid a hectic week for most students. @DTeditorial will tweet live from the forum to keep all informed, and read tomorrow’s Daily Texan for more.

The UT System Board of Regents is expected to decide tuition rates for the next two academic years at its meeting Thursday.

This is the latest that the regents have set tuition rates for the 15 UT System institutions since 2004 after tuition deregulation shifted tuition setting power from the state Legislature to the regents. The delay is halting the calculation and distribution of financial aid packages and planning for the University budget.

President William Powers Jr. asked the regents on Dec. 15 for the largest tuition increase allowed during the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic years. The UT System gave directives that any recommendation to increase tuition must be tied to improving four-year graduation rates.

University officials support the tuition increase in an effort to maintain the University’s Tier One status. In spite of the $92 million cut in state funding in the last legislative session, University officials worry that the regents will not raise tuition in an effort to improve affordability and four-year graduation rates. Both the University’s Faculty Council and the UT System Student Advisory Council sent a letter raising concerns about the regents priorities to UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.

If the recommendations are followed, in-state undergraduates would face a 2.6 percent tuition increase each year for the next two academic years. Out-of-state students and graduate students would face a 3.6 percent tuition increase each year for the next two academic years.

The proposed increase would provide $30.6 million worth of academic funds from 2012-2014, but the University would still lack $30.5 million of academics funds, according to tuition recommendation documents.

The tuition-setting process began with input from the College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committees, in which student members worked with their college deans to get student feedback about tuition rates and college priorities. The Liberal Arts CTBAC is the only committee, out of a total of 16 CTBACs, that opposed tuition increases.

From this feedback received at forums, the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee drafted recommendations to increase tuition. Powers adopted the recommendations from the nine-member committee, which includes a student representative of undergraduates who receive financial aid, three student leaders and five faculty members and administrators.

Samantha Dallefeld, chair of the UT System Student Advisory Council and UT Medical Branch at Galveston student, wrote a letter of recommendations to the UT System chancellor on behalf of the council on March 23. The letter outlined the concern that “several avenues for student input regarding tuition and fee setting are not being adequately heard” and that the focus on improving four-year graduation rates hindered discussion regarding other institutional goals. The goals mentioned include “seeking Tier One status, transportation needs, the quality of student life, or becoming the nation’s best public research institution.”

Alan Friedman, Faculty Council chair and English professor and Hillary Hart, Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets chair and architecture and engineering senior lecturer, drafted the Faculty Council letter on April 11 to express “strong support for the modest tuition increase recommended by President Powers.” It went on to describe the faculty’s perspective on the needs and demands of students, including academic and financial strains, but ultimately reiterated the importance of maintaining the excellence of the University.

“All the students with whom we have spoken and most who spoke out at TPAC forum last fall recognize that, while they do not like the tuition increase, the University must keep pace with the cost of living if it is to be able to keep offering the quality education they seek,” the letter reads.

Some students, including those involved with Occupy UT, spoke out against tuition increases at the three Tuition Policy Advisory Committee forums.

Friedman said he recognizes that a tuition increase may negatively affect individual students.

“I’m very sorry about that,” Friedman said. “I reluctantly support the tuition increase.”

He said due to the drastic cuts in state funding, it is imperative that the regents increase tuition in order to maintain the excellency of the University.

“This is an extraordinary resource and it’s fragile,” Friedman said. “It’s very easy to destroy excellence and it’s very hard to rebuild it.”

Printed on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 as: Meeting expected to decide two-year tuition rate

Earlier this month, the Faculty Council sent a letter to UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to convey its “strong support” of the tuition increases proposed by the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) and President William Powers Jr. The letter was distributed to members at the council’s meeting on Monday.

The proposal is to increase tuition for all resident undergraduates by 2.6 percent and all other students by 3.6 percent for the next two academic years. The UT System Board of Regents, which sets the tuition, originally planned to make its decision at its April 12 meeting, but postponed for an undetermined reason.

The letter, dated April 11, is signed by Alan Friedman, English professor and Faculty Council chairman, and Hillary Hart, civil architecture and environmental engineering lecturer, chairwoman of the Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets and member of TPAC.

The letter is unique in a few ways. For starters, there was no letter sent on behalf of the faculty to Cigarroa during the last tuition-setting year in 2010. The letter embodies the gnawing anxiety felt by University faculty and administrators regarding the impending tuition decision. The possibility of the regents not raising tuition at all in the face of state budget reductions has many at the University scrambling for cover.

Second, the letter itself takes a different tone. The letter supports tuition increases not to create a university of the first class, but enhancing the “quality” of a students’ degrees in the context of enhancing the “efficiency of … students’ progress toward their degrees.”

The letter continues with a student-centric tone: “As faculty, we daily confront the needs and exigencies of our students. We know that most of them work very hard at their academic studies and that many have a difficult time paying for their education.”

The hidden reality in all discussions surrounding tuition is that there is a large void in student voice. Administrators are fully aware that any increase in tuition will need full student support — or at least the perception of it — and now faculty members are channeling that too.

The unhidden reality is that students don’t seem to have a clue about their own power.
 

Thursday’s UT System Board of Regents meeting came and went with perhaps the most unwelcome news possible regarding tuition for the next two years: No news at all.

The regents’ decision hurls the University into a state of uncertainty, creating administrative nightmares as it prepares its budget for the 2012-13 academic year. Students are left adrift in nightmares of their own as they begin registering for classes on Monday without knowing what their tuition bills will be.

In 2010, the previous tuition-setting year, the regents approved the tuition proposals of the system’s universities in early March. The group’s continued delay is the longest since the state Legislature granted tuition-setting power to the board in 2003, and the reason for the delay remains largely unexplained, according to The Daily Texan.

President William Powers Jr. submitted his proposal to the UT System in January to increase tuition by 2.6 percent for resident undergraduate students and by 3.6 percent for all other students. Powers’ recommendation mirrored the proposal prepared by the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC), which is composed of nine voting members, four of which are students. However, much of TPAC’s process resembled a charade as it was bound by directives from the system. Two of the most restrictive directives set a cap on the maximum tuition increase TPAC could propose and required that all increases be tied to improving four-year undergraduate graduation rates.

The board’s delay in addressing tuition policy brings about a few interesting questions.

First, the next scheduled regents meeting is May 2-3, which coincides with the hellacious last week of classes for most students at UT. And while the board has been supportive of keeping tuition low, any increase will likely be met with demurring by individuals who feel that any increase simply reinforces the hegemonic narrative of transferring the burden of public education from the state to parents and students. The board does have the option of calling a special meeting before May to address tuition, however.

Second, since last year, several University administrators have privately acknowledged — and cringed at — the possibility of the regents disallowing any tuition increases at all despite state budgets cuts. Their postponement of the decision only adds to that anxiety.

Deans at UT had to submit a proposal to the provost’s office in October that outlined how they would use any extra money they receive from increasing tuition to improve four-year graduation rates. The Daily Texan acquired the proposals through the Texas Public Information Act.

Several deans proposed using the money to reduce bottleneck courses, improve academic advising and tracking and increase mentorship services. Others, such as at engineering and business deans, proposed using the money to hire tenure and tenure-track faculty members to reduce the student-to-faculty ratios in classrooms — a respectable thought, but one that is concerned more with improving rankings than graduation rates. The College of Communication even suggested using some of the new money to build a bridge across Dean Keeton Street to connect the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center with the new Belo Center for New Media, which will open in November.

It is possible that the regents may scrutinize the proposals and feel that they do not merit a tuition increase. UT System spokesman Anthony de Bruyn said that the deans’ proposals are currently being reviewed by the chancellor.

Additionally, while most universities in the state are upholding the emerging tradition of increasing tuition, some are holding out. Within the UT System, UT-Brownsville, UT-San Antonio and UT-El Paso are all proposing tuition increases, but UT-Arlington is not. And while the Texas A&M University System approved a system-wide, 3.95 percent tuition increase in February, the University of Houston System plans to keep its tuition the same.

The implications of the board’s decision go beyond the biennium as a change in tuition policy can affect how many view higher education as a whole.
At the moment though, the board’s inaction just has everyone else scrambling.

In March, the UT System Board of Regents will likely raise tuition for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years, per President William Powers Jr.’s recommendation.

In December, Powers forwarded to the board the proposal of the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee to raise tuition by 2.6 percent for resident undergraduates and by 3.6 percent for nonresident undergraduates and all graduate students.

Students have heard the threat multiple times: If we don’t raise tuition, we may see significant cuts to University services and programs. This is the picture University administrators paint for students when discussing tuition policy.

Students are shut out from budget discussions and tuition policy meetings and, consequently, have a very limited understanding of the budget. As a result, students can engage in only a limited and often unproductive discussion of the large and complex issue.

At TPAC open forums, during which students can voice their opinions on possible tuition increases, many students describe the sacrifices they make to afford tuition. While these arguments are incredibly compelling, they don’t really fit in the tuition discussion as it has been framed. Without increasing tuition, the framework demands that the University has to cut important programs, thus reducing the quality of education UT offers, and if UT’s quality decreases, both prospective and current students may turn elsewhere.

Reinforcing this mindset, students’ representative body, Student Government, is attempting to allow for more student input with a referendum on two questions: first, whether they support a tuition increase and second, whether they accept cuts to services and programs.

This is unproductive. First, the questions will be incorporated into the student-wide elections, which will be Feb. 29 and March 1. The Board of Regents must set tuition policy by March 15 and has already received a recommendation from Powers. Given this timeline, it is extremely unlikely that the results of this referendum will have any effect on the policy the regents set.

Second, and more importantly, the two questions perpetuate the partial perception of the larger financial problem as it has been conveyed to students. The two questions present the University’s budget shortfall as something that can be solved by either increasing tuition or by reducing funding for critical programs.

With only a limited understanding of the budget, students can rarely contribute meaningfully to the discussion with alternatives to tuition increases or budget cuts. The partial picture that students are allowed to see and the limited perspective it ensures make student input unproductive. Additionally, by presenting only these tired, dichotomous solutions, those involved in the tuition-setting process exclude every other possibility that might help to fill the budgetary hole that the Legislature left UT with last session.

If students want to be included in the tuition-setting process, they should demand more transparency and information from administrators. Otherwise, their input risks being extraneous at best and counterproductive at worst.