College Tuition

Over the past decade, the amount of money given to UT as a percent of the state budget has decreased. Meanwhile, tuition has done just the opposite and has increased by thousands of dollars. The time has again come to reconsider tuition, and this time, students have a more significant voice than ever before. In the College of Liberal Arts, we, the members of the liberal arts College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee, have been diligently working to gather student input on this issue, and last week, we released our first set of recommendations to Dean Randy Diehl. They are based on lengthy deliberation, and they rely heavily on the results of a student survey and efforts to communicate with students through social media.

After a record number of responses from our survey, one thing is clear: Students in the college do not want a tuition increase. However, we recognize that this may be unavoidable. If that is the case, we would like to see those funds directed toward the top priorities of our students. These priorities include top faculty, smaller classes, advising and career services. We believe that increasing course availability is the best way to address these priorities, and with the students’ priorities in mind, the liberal arts CTBAC made two recommendations.

First, we recommended that the college improve advising services. This recommendation can be broken down into three parts. We recommend that students should be required to meet with an adviser or fill out an online advising form, with the caveat that they be able to opt out. We felt students would find this useful as they try to maintain their path to graduation and complete their degrees on time. Additionally, we recommended the training of advisers be refocused toward helping students graduate in four years. Finally, we would like to see students have the opportunity to sit down with an adviser and develop a personalized four-year graduation plan that would allow them to make sure they are on track from semester to semester. All of these advising changes would help students understand what classes they need to take and reduce the number of students unknowingly taking classes that do not count toward their degrees.

Second, we recommended that the college increase the number of summer courses it offers. Specifically, we would like to see the college provide six free hours of summer coursework to full-time liberal arts students. Also, we recommended that the college increase funding for a summer enrollment program for incoming freshmen with a specific concentration on those that are entering with few college credits. We believe the courses offered should include those that have corresponding Advanced Placement credits, core requirement classes that tend to be in high demand and prerequisite courses. This would allow students to acclimate to the rigor of classes at a top institution, improve course availability and increase academic integration. If implemented, these recommendations would improve graduation rates.

We are pleased with the consideration the deans of the college have given to our recommendations, and we applaud them for their dedication to student involvement.

Though tuition decisions will ultimately be made by the UT Board of Regents, they primarily affect students. We have worked hard to bring student input into this process, but student involvement does not end with our current recommendations. Many students have already engaged the issue of tuition, and we look forward to countless more joining us in the future.

A student asks a question at the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee forum held on Wednesday afternoon at the A.C.E.S building. The forum allowed attendees to directly address concerns they had regarding UTÂ’s budget and tuition.

Photo Credit: Andrea Macias-Jimenez | Daily Texan Staff

Students voiced concerns over potential tuition increases at the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee’s first open forum of this tuition-setting term Wednesday.

This is the first year the committee has held a public forum more than a month before it makes tuition recommendations to President William Powers Jr.

Committee members explained the tuition-setting process the University has used since 2003 when the state legislature handed its power to set tuition rates over to state universities’ governing boards.

TPAC gets input from each of the colleges’ and schools’ College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee. TPAC will take this input and make tuition recommendations to Powers, who will then recommend tuition policy to the UT System Board of Regents later this semester. However, tuition policy for the next two years will ultimately be set by the Board of Regents.

Student Government President Natalie Butler said the UT System suggested that any tuition increase must be tied to an effort to improve four-year graduation rates and should stay within a 2.6 percent increase.

Mary Knight, associate vice president and budget director, said the Board of Regents limits graduate tuition to 1 percent more than undergraduate tuition.

TPAC co-chair Steven Leslie, executive vice-president and provost, said his office wants to monitor the graduate programs, but the tuition decisions have focused on the four-year graduation rates of undergraduates, as directed by the board.

“Driving force of the economy is driven by these big universities,” Leslie said. “We do not want to force students through the University.”

During the forum, students and parents voiced their concerns about tuition increases.

Information studies graduate student Michael Redding, who is also a member of the school’s College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee, said students in his two-year graduate program are worried. He said the emphasis on four-year graduation rates in setting tuition policy may not accurately reflect the academic needs of two-year graduate programs.

“If you do it in four years you’re doing it wrong,” Redding said. “The concern is we’ll have these really nice buildings, but no faculty to teach us.”

Nursing junior Jaclyn Rosenthal said efficiency at the School of Nursing seems impossible because students must apply to pre-nursing first and then reapply to upper division nursing.

“[When I was in pre-nursing] they told me about 75 percent of students who get into pre-nursing get into upper division,” Rosenthal said.

She said the nursing school could not afford to keep two teachers this year, which lowered the upper division capacity to admit only 55 percent of students who applied. Rosenthal said some of her nursing classmates take classes outside their degree plan as they wait to be admitted to the upper division nursing sequence.

Leslie said both the nursing school and the pharmacy school must confront these issues because they are competitive, professional schools and receive significantly less funding than medical programs.

Government senior Crystal Zhao said she worked as an orientation adviser this summer and registration posed challenges for incoming freshmen to prepare for an efficient graduation plan.

“I had a very hard time putting students in classes that they needed,” Zhao said, who is also a College of Liberal Art representative. “It really discourages the four-year graduation rate.”

Printed on Thursday, October 13, 2011 as: Students offer input about tuition changes: Advisory committee holds first public forum, receives outside input about polices 

A newly formed student committee submitted recommendations to decrease tuition and increase the quality of UT’s liberal arts education to the college’s dean on Wednesday.

The College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee for liberal arts compiled information from a survey of more than 400 liberal arts students and urged the college to improve faculty, career services and advising and guarantee smaller classes. According to the recommendations, 65 percent of students are against any kind of increase in tuition, but if a hike is unavoidable, the money should first go toward the resources students feel the most strongly about.

Once approved by the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, the committee’s suggestions must be approved by Tuition Policy Advisory Committee. TPAC is a nine-member committee made up of four UT students and five faculty and staff members, including vice provost Steve Leslie and chief financial officer Kevin Hegarty. If TPAC approves the recommendations, they will be reviewed by President William Powers Jr. before going to the Board of Regents, which ultimately sets tuition.

The college will implement CTBAC’s recommendations, which also include funding a summer enrollment program for incoming freshmen and hiring more lecturers for courses that might delay a student’s graduation time, said Randy Diehl, the College of Liberal Art’s dean.

“It’s been key to have [CTBAC] involved in the discussion early on,” he said. “They’ve provided thoughtful and well-organized recommendations.”

The college plans to accept the committee’s recommendations with the addition of extending increased support for study abroad programs in the college, Diehl said.

The letter of recommendation coincided with TPAC’s first open forum, as the Committee has traditionally held closed meetings. The $92 million state cut for UT’s budget over two years will not be made up by tuition increases, Leslie said at the forum.

“We will try to cover the necessary costs to keep the University strong,” he said.

TPAC members will state their official opinion on the Liberal Arts CTBAC’s recommendations on Friday, after reviewing the committee’s letter to Diehl, said Carisa Nietsche, president of the Senate of College Councils and a TPAC member.

“In terms of personal thoughts, I was really impressed with their recommendations,” she said. “They did a really fine job of combining student opinion from the survey with what’s most feasible.”

Although ideally tuition would not go up, the college’s CTBAC took into account a tuition hike may be necessary and stated what they wanted to focus on should there be an increas, Nietsche said.

“It’s a nice balance, saying we recognize we aren’t the only college involved so we might not get what we want, but here are our priorities should tuition raise,” she said.

Printed on Thursday, October 13, 2011 as: Students offer input about tuition changes: Liberal arts college survey finds support for allocating funds to student resources

The College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committees proposed by the Senate of College Councils for all 16 University colleges are scheduled to be fully formed by the end of September, said Senate president Carisa Nietsche.

The Senate of College Councils began developing plans for advisory committees in April 2010, Nietsche said. She said they developed in response to the state-mandated budget cuts to allow students to become directly involved in the allocation of their college’s budget.

Nietsche said last spring, six college advisory committees were formed including the colleges of natural sciences, liberal arts, business, fine arts, public affairs and the information school. She said the remaining 10 colleges will form their advisory committees by September.

“We are waiting to see what the other CTBACs’ relationships with deans will be like,” Nietsche said.

Nietsche said the Senate of College Councils is forming an advisory committee roundtable next semester that will bring together the chairs of every advisory committee in one meeting to encourage more Universitywide trends. She said the roundtable will help new committees get fully formed and ease them into the process of working directly with administrators.

“As of now we have a designated chair for almost every CTBAC at the University,” Nietsche said. “I think it’ll be surprising to see how many commonalities there are between colleges. I want to see if they are prioritizing research or merit increases for faculty members.”

Former College of Natural Sciences advisory committee chair Justin Price said the importance of an advisory committee is both to advise administrators on how students decipher budget spending and to provide transparency to students on how the budget is spent.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about how funds are being used,” Price said. “Students don’t understand how we can build new buildings but can’t pay faculty. We need to educate students on the fact that we have state building funds that are separate from academic funds. The same goes for athletic funds.”

Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl said the advisory committee for the college was an extremely helpful asset to the budget process last spring despite being newly formed. He said he supported the forming of a CTBAC from the beginning.
“I had very good discussions with the Liberal Arts Council and Student Government about the role the CTBAC could play,” Diehl said. “I found the committee to be particularly helpful. Their approach was thorough.”

Diehl said the committee gave detailed recommendations about the proposed budget cuts and reallocation, especially with the discussions about how to allocate money to ethnic and identity studies centers, a controversial challenge last academic year.

Diehl said it is important for administrators to embrace the work of advisory committees and to provide newly formed advisory committees with the background information needed to be informed on the budget process specific to their college.

College of Natural Sciences advisory committee chair Houdah Abualtin said the most important part of forming an advisory committee is focusing on recruiting dedicated members and creating a strong team unity.

Abualtin said once an advisory committee is formed and functioning, it is crucial that all members of the committee begin making connections with the college deans and administrators. She said in order to do this, committee members must play off of the personalities of the people they are trying to meet with.

“What gets done always depends on the administrators,” Abualtin said. “Some are already willing to work with students and others have to be eased into it. You have to be humble when working with them and show them you’re serious about what you want.”

Students gave their input on proposed budget shortfalls facing the College of Liberal Arts during an open meeting the College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee hosted Monday.

CTBAC invited liberal arts students to give recommendations and feedback before the committee submits a formal recommendation plan to Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl before spring break, said CTBAC president Carl Thorne-Thomsen.

According to an e-mail the dean sent to liberal arts students on Friday, the college is expected to face millions of dollars in cuts over the next three years. Diehl wrote that the cuts are necessary because of an estimated $27 billion state budget shortfall.

“These are difficult times for all of us and we don’t yet know how deep the cuts will be,” Diehl wrote. “I strive to be as methodical, equitable and transparent as possible during this process and to minimize the damaging effects of the cuts on our core research and teaching missions.”

The college will most likely cut $1 million from area studies centers later this semester, according to the e-mail.
These centers include Asian American studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Humanities Institute, Texas Language Technology Center and more, according to a recommendation plan by the Academic Planning and Advisory Committee. No center will receive increased funding while the others are being cut.

Members of Liberal Arts Council have been reaching professors and students who are voicing their opinions against these measures, said Shakshi Kshatriya, international relations and global studies junior and a member of
the council.

“Many people feel very passionately about the centers and they are concerned about their decrease,” Kshatriya said.
The committee is focusing on creating more qualitative data to present to the dean by conducting online surveys and soliciting opinions of students across campus, said committee member Yaman Desai.

“We are looking at what services students really value and what services they use more than others,” Desai said.
The formal recommendations will include student feedback and other things that the committee views as high priority issues for the College of Liberal Arts.

Students recommended to the committee that it should ask the centers to look into more options for funding outside the University.

Many guest lectures that are organized through these centers are paid by student tuitions. As much as students might enjoy these guest lectures, the college should be willing to cut down on these costs if push comes to shove,
Kshatriya said.

Government and history junior Philip Wiseman said students are here to get a degree. Things that pertain to graduating on time and getting quality education should be prioritized over other expenses, he said.

CTBAC researched different departments and programs on campus to see how the budget cuts are impacting the University as a whole, Thorne-Thomsen said.

The group was the first of the College Tuition and Budget Advisory Councils to submit a proposal to its college, and a meeting Friday indicated that the students and administrators have similar goals. The Senate of College Councils created such a committee for each college in anticipation of drastic budget cuts across the University this year. The goal of the councils is to create a more transparent budget conversation between students and administrators in the face of about $66 million in additional legislative cuts to the University.

The liberal arts budget council leads the pack, and the College of Natural Sciences is close behind after its first meeting last week. Others, including the College of Fine Arts, the College of Education and the School of Social Work budget committees, are still in their beginning stages. The councils will give students a “seat at the table” while the college budgets are under discussion, said Senate spokesman Michael Morton.

“They will serve as the student voice to deans as to what the students’ opinions are about the budget and where funds should be allocated and where cuts could be,” he said.

Morton said the Senate will have an option on the website where all the forums will be broadcast live for students. Students who are unable to attend the forums can tweet questions to the Senate Twitter account, and their questions will be addressed during the forum.

Richard Flores, College of Liberal Arts associate dean for academic affairs, said he was pleased with their first meeting with the committee and is looking forward to working with them in the future.

“I thought it was a very productive meeting and a good exchange on their behalf and ours,” he said. “They had a lot of questions about the budget recommendations, and we were able to explain the consultation and budget-viewing process.”

Flores said Dean Randy Diehl’s office will consider verbal and written input from the committee throughout the duration of the decision-making process.

The committee’s recommendations included college-wide, biweekly updates about the budget; more input from students, faculty and staff members prior to college budget decisions; and immediate council member notification when a final decision regarding the college’s budget is being made.

Carl Thorne-Thomsen, chair of the liberal arts budget council, said he was impressed with how responsive the deans were to their recommendations.

“We really stuck with what we believed in, and they finally agreed and said they are on board to take our recommendations seriously,” he said.

Thorne-Thomsen said the committee will be as transparent with students as they expect the deans to be, so they will keep students up-to-date on meeting decisions and outcomes, as well as any important correspondence with the deans.

“Literally, as we send stuff to the dean we will post it on our Twitter and Facebook page,” he said. “In the next two weeks we will host a couple open meetings and a forum where everybody can come and give input.”

Although the committee will not be scheduling regular meetings with the deans, they will keep in contact with them until Diehl goes into the final stages of making his decision in mid-March.

The College of Natural Sciences’ first meeting with department chairs last week was an opportunity for committee members to gain background knowledge of how the budget meetings ran, said Houdah Abualtin, cell and molecular biology senior and committee chair.

“We first need to be educated about how the process works and how the money is divided up between different programs,” she said. “The next big thing is to reach out to the students in the college and teach them.”

Under a cloud of controversy about recommended cuts to 15 University centers and institutes, the College of Liberal Arts had its first College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee meeting Thursday morning.

Senate of College Councils, which created the advisory committee program, discussed University funding again in its last meeting of the semester that night.

College of Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl sat down with the 12 students on the committee, which includes Student Government, Graduate Student, Senate of College Councils and at-large members, to discuss the budget forecast for the college. The group will serve as a bridge to help relay student opinion to the administration as well as to help explain and discuss budget planning and potential cuts to all students in the college.

“There have been complaints because there’s no direct student voice in budgetary conversations, and this is our way of getting that direct voice,” said Liberal Arts Council President Carl Thorne-Thomsen. “This first meeting was educational and informational because there is a lot of information out there and a lot of confusion.”

Over the course of the spring semester, the advisory committee will begin working with administrators, faculty and students in every college and school, said Senate spokesman Michael Morton, a journalism sophomore.

During the Senate meeting, representatives passed a resolution in support of additional state funding for the University. Although Senate has never lobbied at the Legislature before, it is necessary that they represent student academics with higher education funding on the chopping block when the state legislature tries to resolve a budget deficit that exceeds $20 million, said Senate Vice President Drew Finke.

“We need to be able to say that the things we [call] student concerns are actually things students care about,” Finke said about the importance of the legislation. “Investing in education at the University of Texas pays dividends down the line, and it’s really investing in the future of Texas.”

Senate passed five other resolutions, addressing creation of a system to report academic dishonesty, faculty and staff preparedness in emergencies, a new potential interdisciplinary program, course equivalency for study abroad courses and management of college council funds after the Student Organization Bank closes in January.

The resolution related to the interdisciplinary program spurred some debate, as representatives from Liberal Arts, Natural Sciences and the LBJ school questioned if the program reflected elements from existing interdisciplinary programs such as the Bridging Disciplines Program.

The resolution passed, so author Josh Fjelstul will create a committee to discuss the possible creation of the program, called Res Novae, which means New Minds. It would be housed in the School of Undergraduate Studies and include a global issues focus and a capstone project. Students from all majors would be eligible to participate.