Students disapprove of possible tuition increases

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A recent Senate of College Councils survey shows almost half of UT students strongly disapprove of more tuition hikes.

The survey, which started early October and ended last Thursday, sought to gather student input as the University works on tuition proposals for the 2018–2019 and 2019–2020 academic years. With state funding cutbacks, the University has relied on tuition increases for more funding over the past two years.

Out of 5,404 responses to the survey, almost 46 percent of students voted that they “definitely do not approve of tuition increases,” and another 38 percent voted that they would “probably not approve of tuition increases,” Senate President Austin Reynolds said.

“We’re definitely looking at a majority (of students) leaning towards the no tuition increase side,” Reynolds, an English senior, said. “If faculty or the administration are seeing (tuition increases) as a clear option, the students don’t understand why, and they’re not behind it.”

About 14 percent of the students surveyed said they would probably approve of increased tuition to fund more University resources. Only about two percent strongly approved of tuition hikes.
Reynolds, a student representative in the University’s Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, presented the results to University members of the committee on Friday. A full report of the survey, including college specific-data, will be available at the next Senate meeting on Nov. 16, Reynolds said.

Jay Bernhardt, dean of the Moody College of Communication, also forms part of the committee. He said he isn’t surprised by the student concerns raised in the survey.

“As the father of a UT freshman, I understand these concerns,” Bernhardt said in an email. “In the absence of detailed information about actual costs and benefits, it is not surprising that many students would oppose any tuition increases in principle.”

The committee will send out an email to students with more information about the tuition setting process and proposed tuition changes this week, said Joey Williams, communications director for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

“I hope our student leaders will encourage students and families to get the facts on how a modest tuition increase would actually affect their costs and help improve our university,” Bernhardt said.
There is no specific timeline for student input, but Williams said the committee plans to also look at more student input provided by Student Government and the Graduate Student Assembly.

“Student involvement is critical in these discussions, and the students on the committee are clearly working very hard to accomplish this,” Williams said. “TPAC will be taking all this feedback into consideration going forward.”

The University email will also include a link to a TPAC survey for students to provide feedback on the tuition information released, Williams said.

“(The TPAC survey) is just another avenue for us to get more input,” Williams said. “We’re obviously going to leave the survey open as long as possible. That’s why we’re trying to push to get this message to campus very soon.”

The committee has until December to recommend tuition changes to President Gregory Fenves. With these recommendations, Fenves will present a final tuition proposal to the UT System Board of Regents in February. The Board of Regents will then set the final tuition for the next two academic years.