Leaders defend deregulation

Yudof, Faulkner address concerns on tuition changes

By Lomi Kriel
Daily Texan
June 4, 2003

UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof said during a Tuesday press conference that under severe financial constraints, the 78th Legislature blunted the cuts to higher education as much as possible.

"It could have been a lot worse," Yudof said.

During the press conference, UT President Larry Faulkner said he expects the top 10 percent bill will be revived in a special session. The bill, which was killed in the Senate with a filibuster, would have capped automatic admissions at 60 percent and required students to take the recommended high school curriculum, as opposed to current minimum graduation requirements.

Seventy-five percent of Texas residents in the top 10 percent of their graduating class were automatically admitted to the University for fall 2003, raising concerns that the entire freshman class will be automatic-ally admitted at some point.

Yudof said that with local control over tuition, the University would have the flexibility to set tuition to improve graduation rates, reduce student/faculty ratios, improve academic progress, make better use of facilities and take more meaningful steps in closing gaps in affordability.

"Now, with local control of education, if we make a mistake, we can fix it two or three months later. If the Legislature made a mistake, they could only fix it two years later," Yudof said.

Deregulation could be campus- and program-specific, and thus tuition increases are not likely to be universal, Yudof said.

"We will be able to tailor rig to demographics and age characteristics," Yudof said.

Discounting late afternoon or increasing tuition for non-residents were possible ideas. Under deregulation, Yudof said, "The only limits are our creativity."

However, Brian Haley, Student Government President, voiced concern that discounted afternoon classes would negatively affect students who have to work. Because they would be forced to take the more expensive morning classes, students would have to work more to pay the difference.

"I favor across-the-board tuition prices so that students are not penalized by the classes they have to take," Haley said.

Yudof said deregulation makes sense under the state's economic crisis, and they have a responsibility to safeguard the University and the quality of its education.

"If you go to Vanderbilt, you pay at least $24,000, while at UT you pay about $5,000," Yudof said. "We want to keep the University as affordable as possible, and we are reluctant about increases, but we have to see that the quality of education at the University does not decline."

Some opponents have voiced concerns that deregulation will be used as a vehicle to force students away from the University and into to other satellite schools to help ease the University's burgeoning enrollment.

However, Faulkner said that he had no interest in using deregulation as a "financial vehicle for lowering the demographic," and that every effort will be made to keep the University accessible to all.

Yudof said that the University would be prudent with any tuition increase.

However, he said, "Are prices going up? Of course. Are we having trouble making ends meet? Of course."

Yudof emphasized that tuition decisions would not be made until after a full analysis is made during the summer. Yudof called for participation and consultation from students on campus in the fall.

Haley said that he felt skeptical about Yudof's desire for student involvement.

"In the past, the Regents have not been so open in their dealings with students," Haley said.

Faulkner said that tuition increases would probably start in January.