Old Main on the Texas State campus. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
Texas State President Denise Trauth predicts two possible outcomes should Governor Rick Perry’s tuition freeze proposal be passed into law.
Both of them, she suggested, are grim.
Trauth said that even if a tuition freeze could provide students and families with financial predictability, it stands to predict either higher tuition rates or lower qualities of education.
“One of two consequences is likely to occur,” Trauth said by email. “If universities retain the ability to raise tuition for entering students, the amount of each increase is likely to be greater than it would otherwise have been, as universities attempt to account for being forced to budget based on a tuition rate for a four year period, regardless of external circumstances. (Or) if new limits are placed on universities’ ability to raise tuition for entering students, the quality of the education that they can deliver is likely to be compromised because of their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.”
Trauth said she neither favors nor opposes the Governor’s support for a four-year tuition freeze for incoming freshmen. She said the Governor’s recommendation is one of many being considered in the legislature. Therefore, she said, she is “not ready to offer an opinion regarding the specifics of any proposal.”
In his 2009 State of the State address, Perry advocated accessible and affordable education at institutions of higher learning. He said freezing tuition for four years at the level students pay as entering freshmen would provide for greater possibilities of attaining higher education.
“We must continue removing roadblocks for young Texans wanting to pursue higher education,” Perry said. “…This is just one way to continue improving higher education in Texas as we work to achieve and maintain a competitive edge in the global marketplace well into the future.”
Brett Baker, president of Texas State’s Associated Student Government (ASG), echoed Trauth.
“It’s too early in the legislative session to jump (in support of) one thing,” Baker said. “I think the bigger thing is to make sure there is appropriate funding for higher education … I think it’s important we allow flexibility in the university to grow with the times. We need to remain competitive.”
Trauth pointed towards other solutions that would, in her opinion, better offset inflated tuition costs. She said financial aid funding, including the Texas Grant, Teach for Texas program, and work-study programs, would be the “best” alternative in preparing parents and students financially for education costs.
“Increase in designated tuition imposes a real burden on Texas State students,” Trauth said. “Each year, we discuss possible tuition increases with our students in an effort to help them understand the choices we face. We also explain that a significant part of every increase in designated tuition is set aside for financial aid for the neediest students. Fortunately, our students generally understand that a high-quality education requires investments that must come either from state support or from tuition and fees.”
A Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board report comparing costs from Fall 2002 to Fall 2007 shows a 58 percent increase in average tuition costs statewide since the Legislature deregulated tuition in 2003. The same report states Texas State University – San Marcos increased tuition by 74 percent.
Trauth said that a comprehensive tuition pricing study is conducted yearly to determine “the most appropriate way to establish annual tuition rates.” She said the study identified five in-state competitor universities as the control group for determining tuition costs, adding that tuition fees have maintained the same relative relationship yearly, as they had before deregulation.
“We recognize the pressure that increases in designated tuition place on Texas families, and we consider this issue with great care every year,” Trauth said. “Every year, we seek to provide the families of Texas with the most reasonable tuition that is possible while delivering a high quality university education … I think it’s important for people to remember that we have been forced to increase designated tuition in response to a continuing downward trend in state funding for ongoing operations. Even after these increases, The Princeton Review listed Texas State as one of America’s Best Value Colleges for 2007.”
Perry’s proposal includes increasing student financial aid with $110 million for the Texas Grant program, tripling funding for community college financial aid through the Texas Education Opportunity Grant, expanding the Skills Development Fund program to $60 million for the next biennium, and funding $10 million for the hospital-based nursing program that leverages partnerships between hospitals and academic institutions to graduate more nurses.
“We need to look at everything,” Baker said. “See what’s on the table and keep an open mind. It’s important for our students to have some flexibility with what they need for tuition costs … We’re here to look out for the best interest of our student body.”
Texas State students gather on The Quad. Photo by Andy Sevilla.Email | Print