This semester was the first one during which the University offered students a guaranteed four-year tuition plan, and the number of people who signed up was far lower than the UT System projected. The plan titled “Longhorn Fixed Tuition” offers students a fixed tuition rate for four years, as well as a $3,500 rebate if the student graduates in four years. The current guaranteed tuition rate is eight percent higher than the tuition most in-state students pay, which the UT System Board of Regents has the option to change each year, and next year’s traditional rate is four percent lower than the guaranteed rate. UT tuition has remained constant since 2011.
The regents projected that between 2,000 and 3,000 students would sign up for the guaranteed rate, but only 1,094 did. Students would probably see this plan as a better choice if in-state tuition hadn’t remained constant for the past three years, which is a long time compared to the four or five years the average student spends studying at the University. The only students who would have noticed the tuition increase between 2010 and 2011 are students who are currently enrolled in their fifth year at the University, so when advertising the plan, administrators should consider the fact that many current students haven’t seen an increase in tuition. Students might assume that if tuition hasn’t risen during the time here, they don’t need to worry about the cost increasing during the rest of their time at the University.
Also, Gov. Rick Perry said in 2013 that this plan would probably help increase four-year graduation rates, but this doesn’t seem likely because under the plan, the rate students pay for an extra year is equivalent to the fixed rate for students who enrolled a year after those students. In 2013, the last time fixed tuition increased for undergraduates at UT Dallas, it only increased by $162, so if UT-Austin’s fixed tuition for full-time undergraduate Texas residents were to increase by a similar amount next year, this would probably not create much incentive for students to avoid taking an extra year to graduate.
The Longhorn Fixed Tuition plan makes perfect sense for students worried about possible tuition increases. But the regents did not have a reasonable expectation for high enrollment in the program considering the board’s recent action regarding in-state tuition.