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Regents approve tuition increases at UT academic and health institutions

After years of essentially flat tuition, campuses plan modest increases to improve student success, remain competitive among national peers

AUSTIN—The University of Texas System Board of Regents approved recommendations from UT health and academic institutions to increase tuition over the next two years, with specific plans to target the new revenue to programs that improve student success and provide essential student services.

Most of the increases for resident undergraduate students at academic institutions range from 2 to 4 percent and all proposals include detailed plans on how new revenue will be spent to serve students and provide faculty support.

For example, UT Austin plans to invest more in student success initiatives that have been proven to boost four-year graduation rates by providing support to keep students in school and on track to graduate. Other plans include developing next-generation degree programs that integrate research and teaching for undergraduate programs; improving post-graduate career placement; and redesigning programs with public/private partnerships and experiential learning.

Regents first heard the proposals at a Feb. 10 meeting on the campus of UT Medical Branch in Galveston. UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven told regents then that a modest increase in tuition was necessary in order to keep UT institutions competitive among their peers.

“The fact is most of our tuition and fees are at or well below the national level and the fact is that tuition and fees are the single greatest driver for revenue which, if spent wisely, improves the quality of our schools.” McRaven said. “However, we remain sensitive to the financial challenges our students and their families face, and we very carefully consider their perspective when we make these recommendations.”

McRaven added that UT institutions are a great value compared to peer institutions, with most falling at or below the national average in terms of tuition rates. In fact, most UT System in-state undergraduate students have seen little to no increase in tuition since fall 2012 and no increases in mandatory student fees since 2011. However, McRaven said the System’s academic institutions now are facing the need for significant additional resources because of the increase in costs associated with operating a university campus and the decline in per-student state appropriations over the last decade.

“It is about staying competitive,” McRaven said.

Late last year, regents authorized campuses to proceed with a consultative process that included students to develop recommendations for increases in tuition and fees for fiscal years 2017 and 2018. The authorization approved an increase of 2 percent per year to address inflation over the last several years, as well as “reasonable and prudent additional increases that address issues of greatest institutional priority.”

In his presentation earlier this month, McRaven pointed out that UT Austin ranks 52nd on U.S. News and World Report’s 2016 National Universities rankings, and the next UT institution to make an appearance on the list is UT Dallas at 140. Meanwhile, the University of California has five campuses ranked in the Top 50.

Regents Chairman Paul Foster said he appreciates the extraordinary efforts UT institutions undertake to be efficient and to keep costs down for students, but he agrees that it’s time for a conservative increase in tuition and fees to ensure the campuses are not under-resourced.

“We are proud of that fact that we offer an affordable education to our students and we will continue to do all we can to provide ways to help students cover the cost of their education and stay out of debt,” Foster said, pointing out that through state and federal grants and institutional funds, many students pay little to nothing toward tuition. “But we cannot escape the fact that tuition and fees are the single greatest driver of our core revenue. We must be sure that our universities have the resources they need to provide the world-class education our students expect and deserve.”

Foster added that he appreciates the point of view of a few of his fellow regents who voted against the tuition increases, saying the board must balance difficult decisions.

“While I believe that a modest increase in tuition was appropriate today, as a board we remain focused on our students and ensuring they have access to a UT education without becoming mired in debt,” Foster said.

Regents also approved tuition increases for UT health institutions. UT System’s medical school tuition rates are far below the national average for public medical schools —approximately $15,000 a year lower at most UT medical schools — and will remain so even with the approved increases. Debt loads for medical school graduates from UT System schools are also significantly lower than the national average for other public medical schools.

In 2014, UT System health institutions developed five-year tuition plans, with the Board of Regents considering tuition on a year-by-year basis. The board approved the plans’ first year in 2014 and second year in 2015. In late 2015, the board directed institutions to update the third and fourth year of the plans with student input. Those plans, approved today, include a median proposed increase of 3 percent or less for each year. Tuition varies not just by institution, but by program, such as medicine, biomedical sciences or nursing.

Raymond S. Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., UT System’s executive vice chancellor for health affairs, said the increases will improve student services, allow institutions to offer access to the latest in health technology and enhance students’ educational experience, all while remaining among the most affordable health institutions in the nation.

About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking basic, applied and clinical 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 14 institutions and an enrollment of more than 217,000, the UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates almost two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public institutions in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $16.9 billion (FY 2016) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 20,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates – and more than 70,000 health care professionals, researchers, student advisors and support staff, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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