Tuition committee weighs budget
Affordability and the maintenance of academic and student services are among the issues the Tuition and Fees Review Committee addressed last week.
The committee, comprised of students, staff and administrators, will make recommendations to UH President Renu Khator, who will in turn make recommendations to the UH System Board of Regents in March.
Information technology, academic tools such as WebCT, the UH e-mail system and campus computer servers need continuing support and upgrades, Chief Information Officer Dennis Fouty said in a presentation to the committee on Tuesday.
"The demand for the IT services continue(s) to grow at some very astounding rates," he said.
The IT’s budget for fiscal year 2008, which began in September, was $52 million. The IT budget is divided among e-mail, WebCT and administrative functions, such as payroll.
"Our percentage of that mix is higher than other universities and honestly, I think that’s the right direction to go," Fouty said.
Fouty also said that WebCT’s usage is expected to increase in fiscal year 2009.
"It has to be available for instruction to be available," he said, referring to quizzes and other materials posted by faculty.
Any proposed increases to student tuition and fees for IT would be used to maintain and upgrade servers and existing systems, such as e-mail, CougarNet and data storage.
"What we’re asking for is for infrastructure administration, database administration," he said.
Distance education, which is largely mediated through WebCT, is also another reason to increase the IT budget, so that students don’t experience interruptions in services, Fouty said.
"It is growing and it is demanding a considerable amount of (the) budget," he said.
Thursday’s meeting was closed to reporters, which is allowable under the Texas Open Meetings Act. Advisory committees may bar public access at their own discretion.
Provost Donald Foss said he would share information on the committee’s decisions Tuesday.
"Some meetings are closed… (so that) some can have discussions within the committee," he said.
Student committee representatives David Rosen, Samuel Dike and Steve Quezada proposed a five-part plan to the committee to reduce tuition and fee increases.
"The lack of predictability is synonymous with how much the tuition is raised," Dike said.
The plan includes reducing summer tuition by half, guaranteeing tuition rates for four years for incoming students, freezing tuition and fees for one year, capping tuition increases at six percent and expanding the family contract to $40,000 from $25,000.
Rosen said that the committee agreed to reducing summer tuition during Summer IV and increasing the family contract to $30,000 from $25,000 instead of the proposed $40,000. The committee has not decided on supporting the tuition cap or guaranteed tuition plan, although either plan would provide economic stability for students, Rosen said.
The committee did not agree to a tuition freeze for the academic year 2008-2009 because of its adverse effects on the budget, Dike said.
"(UH) is not fiscally capable of freezing tuition… because of inflation," Dike said after the meeting.
The committee also agreed that cutting summer tuition by half would cause the University to lose money, Rosen said.
"If we cut all summer rates in half, the school would lose $12 million," Rosen said.
Instead of decreasing summer tuition, Rosen said that students, especially incoming freshman, would have core classes available to them at a two-for-one rate during Summer IV, similar to the Jump Program.
Rosen and Dike said that although their plan does not stop increases in tuition, at least students could expect economic predictability in tuition.
"It’s not a perfect solution," Dike said.