Proposal to increase tuition shreded at the last minute

May 15, 2009

Regents balk at tuition increases
By Patrick McGee
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Wednesday, March 9, 2005

UT-Arlington and UT-Dallas officials are told to revise their proposed increases because regents say they are too high.

Just a day before a scheduled vote on proposed tuition increases for the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Texas at Dallas, regents are demanding revisions because the schools’ proposals exceed a promised 5 percent cap.

Regents were scheduled to vote Thursday on proposed tuitions for all UT System universities. But a system official said Tuesday that regents won’t consider proposals from its two universities in North Texas because they’re too high.

In October, regents Chairman James Huffines pledged to keep tuition and fee increases at system universities at or below 5 percent. He told the state Senate Finance Committee that UT campuses could propose increases above 5 percent only with “special justification.”

But UT-Arlington’s proposal called for a 10 percent increase for students taking 15 semester credit hours, and UT-Dallas’ proposal called for a 23 percent increase for students taking 12 semester credit hours.

The proposals calculated to 5 percent increases for some course loads, but that was not enough to satisfy regents.

“They want to hold the increases as much as possible to around 5 percent,” said Randa Safady, vice chancellor for external relations.

The universities’ proposals appeared to be in their final forms when they were posted Monday on the UT System’s Web site, but system and university officials privately haggled over how the numbers should be reported.

Pulling the proposals off the agenda a day before the meeting is a break from the usual practice of the regents, whose meetings are marked by consensus, unanimous votes and praise for university presidents.

Texas lawmakers gave regents the power to set tuitions and fees during the legislative session in 2003, when a large budget shortfall affected the state’s ability to fund higher education.

Since then, tuition at Texas’ public universities has increased by about a third. It’s gone up 20 percent to $2,650 at UT-Arlington and up 26 percent to $3,181 at UT-Dallas, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The figures are based on tuition and mandatory fees for 15 semester credit hours, the course load a student must take to graduate in four years.

Contacted at home Thursday night, UT-Dallas President Franklyn Jenifer declined to elaborate on his university’s tuition proposal. “I don’t have a comment,” he said. “We’ll see how it comes out.”

Late Tuesday afternoon, UT-Arlington officials were scrambling to rewrite their proposal in the belief that regents would vote on it Thursday.

Provost Dana Dunn said UT-Arlington will not have more than a 5 percent increase in its revised proposal.

“It is our plan to have some kind of concrete proposal that does not exceed 5 percent,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to revise and finalize it. We’ll be very clear and transparent.”

She and other UT-Arlington officials acknowledged errors discovered in a Star-Telegram analysis of their proposal and said they were unclear what system officials wanted from them.