Tuesday, May 20, 2014

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Regents focused on supporting campuses while keeping costs down for students

AUSTIN – The University of Texas System Board of Regents will not raise in-state tuition at the system’s nine academic institutions students for the upcoming academic year but plans to provide financial support to campuses that will make available at least as much revenue as proposed tuition increases would have garnered.

Regents said they plan to allocate money from the Available University Fund (AUF) to UT Austin at the August board meeting in an amount that will provide as much or more revenue as the tuition increase proposed by UT Austin’s leadership. The board also approved a motion to direct Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., and Executive Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Scott Kelley to identify ways that AUF could be used to offset tuition increases at the system’s eight other academic institutions.

“We realize that campuses are facing very real economic challenges and we are committed to making sure our campus leaders have the resources they need to continue and improve upon the excellence in teaching and research that occur every day,” said Regents Chairman Paul Foster. “At the same time, we want to do all we can to keep costs down for students.”

Constitutionally, UT Austin is the only institution allowed to receive AUF money to fund operations. However, the UT System can use AUF money in certain circumstances, such as for capital projects at its institutions and to pay for some system-wide contracts and services. Kelley will work over the next two months to identify recurring campus costs that could be covered by AUF.

The AUF distributes funds from the Permanent University Fund (PUF), an endowment established by the Texas Constitution in 1876. Since its inception, billions of dollars have been deposited into the PUF from oil and gas royalties, lease bonuses and rentals generated from the exploration and development of the university lands.

“We know that UT campuses have goals and aspirations to be the best among their peers. Their focus is on creating a world-class experience for their students,” Cigarroa said. “But we have to make sure those students can afford their college education and don’t graduate mired in debt. It is a very real and critical problem affecting students across the country. We are in the unique position at this time to be able to consider other revenue streams to our institutions while keeping tuition affordable for our students.”

Guaranteed tuition

The board also approved tuition rates for student-optional guaranteed rate plans at six academic institutions. A student participating in a guaranteed tuition plan would pay a fixed tuition rate for four years, regardless of whether traditional rate tuition increases occur during those four years.

In 2013, the Texas Legislature mandated that public universities begin offering such plans. UT System was already ahead of the trend, offering guaranteed rate plans at UT Dallas and UT El Paso, and the Board of Regents had voted prior to the legislative action to ultimately require the plans at all UT academic institutions. The guaranteed tuition plan at UT Dallas has been mandatory since 2007.

Beginning in fall 2014, undergraduate students at UT Arlington, UT Austin, UT Permian Basin, UT San Antonio and UT Tyler will now have the option of a guaranteed rate plan. A guaranteed tuition plan was not developed for UT Brownsville and UT Pan American in light of the fall 2015 opening of the new academic institution, UT Rio Grande Valley.

 “Creating a smoother financial road to a college degree while encouraging students to graduate in four years is a win-win for everyone,” Cigarroa said.

Rates for the guaranteed tuition plans are posted on the UT System website. 2014 rates for traditional tuition at academic institutions also are posted online.

Regents last week approved tuition rates for health institutions and out-of-state students at academic institutions.

About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and a fall 2013 enrollment of more than 213,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public universities in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $14.6 billion (FY 2014) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 90,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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