UT panel proceeds with plans to raise tuition, despite pleas from Dewhurst

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst hoped UT and other universities would rethink tuition increases

By Sharon Jayson
Sunday, November 16, 2003

A panel of University of Texas officials, faculty and students paid no heed to appeals from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to slow down and instead pressed ahead Saturday with plans to raise tuition next year.

UT System regents are expected to approve the proposed increases at a meeting Tuesday.

"As far as I'm concerned, nothing has changed for us," Teresa Sullivan, a UT System executive vice chancellor and chairwoman of a UT System tuition review panel, said Saturday.

"We're now 72 hours away from the regents meeting, and we have gone through a lengthy process," she said. "Any change we make at this stage does seem to not respect that process."

Dewhurst announced Friday that he had asked the state's universities to delay enacting tuition increases for the 2004-05 year until a legislative panel can review the tuition hikes approved for this spring. He said some of the increases for the spring were higher than he expected. The Texas Legislature relinquished tuition-setting authority earlier this year at UT's urging.

Dewhurst said he wants to ensure that students are not priced out of a college education in Texas before universities raise costs for the next school year.

Dewhurst said Friday that he had received assurances from "talking to other people within the system" that UT regents would raise only spring tuition and would refrain from approving any fall increases until the legislative review is complete. But UT regents Chairman Charles Miller of Houston said no such agreement existed.

On Saturday, the UT System Commission on Tuition was a bit defiant and even more determined that UT regents should follow their original plan. The regents' vote Tuesday is scheduled to include both spring and the 2004-05 school year.

"We're within the letter of the law," said Chuck Kettlewell, registrar and director of student financial aid at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. "There is nothing in the law that sets the UT System aside and has different standards for UT System than it does for any of the other systems in the state. All we're dealing with right now is the comments of one individual. I say that we just press forward. We move forward exactly as we have been doing and let the cards fall where they will."

Dewhurst's comments raised questions on the tuition panel about the outcome of UT system proposals, many of which hinge on raising tuition by lesser amounts in the spring and larger amounts in fall 2004. Some campuses planned to use the higher tuition payments for faculty hiring, so a delay would hinder those plans.

Also, they said, students would be left in the dark too long about their college costs. A delay in setting fall rates would affect campus preparation of student financial aid packages.

"We may end up with lower access to college as a result of a delay," Sullivan warned.

Fourth-year dental student Jeremy Chance, who attends the UT Health Science Center in Houston, said he initially opposed a tuition increase and had to be convinced otherwise. Now Chance, who is chairman of the UT System Student Advisory Council, said it will be hard to go back to students if the proposals aren't adopted for the spring and for the 2004-05 school year.

"It basically undercuts our credibility," he said.

The UT System commission wrapped up two days of discussion about each of 14 campus tuition proposals. All of the system's campuses want to raise tuition except for UT Health Center at Tyler, which doesn't charge tuition. No other increases is as high as that of UT-Austin.

The commission, created in August, has worked with similar tuition committees at the campuses to review proposals. UT-Austin recommended that full-time resident students pay $360 in additional tuition for the spring and another $360 in fall 2004. UT also proposed financial aid incentives that would cover most or all of the increases for some students, based on income.

Those combined increases amount to a 32 percent increase over current tuition for a 12-hour course load.

The state's other five major university systems already approved increases for the spring, but only the UT System has proposed a tuition increase for the 2004-05 school year.

Since the Dewhurst comments, UT-Austin Student Government President Brian Haley said he's working with other students to notify past student leaders that they should contact their local legislators and say students support regents' tuition plans. Haley, who serves on both the UT-Austin and UT System tuition panels, said he sent e-mails to the regents Saturday, and he's sending letters urging them forward.

"To have this come up four to five days before the whole process was over and now have the lieutenant governor chime in when we could have worked with him and addressed his concerns is unfair to the student body who have worked on the process and have had their voices heard," he said.

The tuition commission's analysis includes detailed lists about each campus' proposal citing "best features," "areas of concern" and "additional innovations." The commission's work will be sent to UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof.

Also included in the tuition talk on Saturday was discussion of an analysis by the UT-Austin student group UT Watch, which challenges the need for tuition increases.

sjayson@statesman.com; 445-3620




Web site calculates cost of UT tuition


By Sharon Jayson


The University of Texas will launch a new Web site designed to calculate college costs and come up with individually designed financial aid packages the day after UT System regents are expected to raise tuition.

TexasCollegeMoney is the UT System's way of making it easier for students to make the leap from high school to college, officials say.

Though already online at www.texascollegemoney.org, the site will be unveiled officially on Wednesday.

The UT System supplied about $30,000 for the Web site, which is operated by UT-Austin.

Larry Burt, director of UT's office of student financial services, said that in order to protect privacy, the data students submit are not stored by the university and are used only to calculate financial packages.

Burt said the Web site also will include a 24-month calendar to let high school juniors and seniors know the steps they should take to get to college, such as when to take the SAT.

Burt said 130 Texas high schools with low percentages of students enrolling in college and high poverty rates will receive extra attention from UT campuses.

"All the studies show people who need financial aid information the most get it last and sometimes make decisions too late," he said.

sjayson@statesman.com; 445-3620