Yudof: Tuition could rise 27%

Chancellor estimates increase if Legislature deregulates tuition

By Sharon Jayson
Friday, February 14, 2003

University of Texas System Chancellor Mark Yudof said Thursday that tuition and fees at UT-Austin could increase as much as 27 percent over five years if the Legislature relinquishes its power to set tuition rates.

Yudof called the 27 percent "a benchmark" designed to bring UT-Austin costs in line with comparable but higher-priced universities.

"If you wanted a benchmark, the best I could do is to say that the tuition at UT-Austin is 27 percent lower than the tuition at comparable universities around the country," Yudof said. "They have roughly the same cost structures we do, and we charge 27 percent less tuition."

He stressed that he has no hard numbers for possible tuition increases and said he is still seeking Senate support for his chief legislative goal.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry and House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, have voiced support. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, also a Republican, said Thursday that he is giving tuition deregulation serious consideration.

The university ranked 11th of 12 comparable universities last year for tuition and fees, and UT officials said the gap is expected to widen this year. That list includes major institutions such as the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Indiana University at Bloomington. UT's Office of Institutional Research is compiling the data for the current school year.

Annual undergraduate tuition at UT-Austin is $5,340, which is based on an average course load of 14 credit hours per semester.

Yudof said legislative Democrats, in particular, are asking for assurances that the university will be accountable for any actions it takes should tuition deregulation become reality. Earlier in the day, he presented UT regents with more details of his offer of free tuition and fees for lower- and middle-income students. Yudof has said he wants to offer such a program statewide only if legislators relinquish their tuition-setting authority.

On another subject, Yudof said he had no objection to UT law professors Doug Laycock and Gerald Torres' decision to file briefs on behalf of supporters of the University of Michigan's affirmative action admissions policies. The Bush administration is backing a lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the policies and touting the Texas top 10 percent law, which requires admission of students graduating in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, as an alternative.

sjayson@statesman.com; 445-3620