By Mary K. Schaffer February 26, 2012
The average cost of attendance per student could increase by $300 in the next two years if the University Board of Regents adopts the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee’s proposed 2.6 percent tuition increase, according to Dr. Tom Melecki, Director of the Office of Student Financial Services.
In an open forum hosted on Feb. 28 by the Senate of College Councils, Melecki and OSFS Communications Coordinator Jamie Brown discussed how financial aid affects students. If the Regents do adopt the proposed tuition increase, students will not only pay more than the current estimated $12, 500 per semester to attend college, but they may also face more difficulty in receiving scholarships and grants.
If there is an increase in tuition, that will raise the total cost of attendance and increase the amount of money set aside for scholarships by “roughly $30 million,” according to the Student Government tuition referendum.
However, “that is still not enough to cover the full cost of the tuition increase for the majority of students,” Melecki said.
The proposed tuition increase is a result of the state legislature cutting state funds for the University. In the next two years, the state will cut University funding by $92 million.
Plan II Honors and government senior Carisa Nietsche, who, as President of the Senate of College Councils, was one of the student representatives on TPAC last fall. She said that TPAC looked at ways to save money since the budget for financial aid has decreased.
“We focused on operational costs, like turning off lights, though we did talk about slashing some academic services and positions,” Nietsche said.
In November 2011, TPAC recommended a 2.6 percent increase in tuition to President William Powers Jr., who in turn recommended the same increase to the Regents. This recommendation is lower than Powers’ 2009 recommendation of a 3.95-percent increase. It is also lower than last year’s national average tuition increase at public four-year universities of 8.02 percent, according to Melecki.
“I don’t want to see tuition rise, but a 2.6 percent increase is well below the national average,” Melecki said.
Even though TPAC’s tuition increase recommendation is comparatively low, it is still significant because there are certain funds that are no longer available to students because of state budgeting. For example, the state cut back on the Texas Grant, and Melecki said that the University lost one out of every 10 scholarship dollars last year.
“We took a slight hit in state funds, but since the legislature is not in session this year to make cuts, we hopefully won’t have any more cuts till next year,” Melecki said.
The Regents, who recommended to TPAC earlier last fall that they consider a 2.6-percent increase, will meet in March to set tuition for the 2012-2013 academic year.
“We just have to maintain our values and remain true to our core mission of excellence when setting tuition,” Nietsche said.
Melecki said that despite cuts in state funding for scholarships and grants, the University still has to generate revenue.
“The University has to pay its employees. I like my job, but I won’t do it for free,” Melecki said.