The Tuition and Fees Review Committee said it will propose a 5.9 percent increase in tuition and fees for academic year 2008-2009, a $185 increase overall to $3,329 from $3,144 for 12 undergraduate hours Wednesday.
The committee announced the recommendation at the first of two student Tuition and Fee Forums. The second forum will be at noon today in the University Center Underground World Affairs Lounge.
Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Foss, who headed the committee, said fees are annually increased to keep up with inflation in student services and campus utilities.
"The University has made every effort to spend the money wisely," he said.
Foss noted after the forum that the increase to tuition and fees would cover only $12.7 million of the proposed $16.5 million budget increase, and the rest of the funds would come from internal reallocations.
Members of the Tuition and Fees Review Committee took questions Wednesday from students concerned over possible increases slated for fiscal year 2009, which begins in September.
Foss said UH is still an affordable school when compared to other research universities. Of the other research universities in Texas, The University of Texas at Austin had the highest projected tuition for next academic year at $4,030 for 12 semester credit hours, and the University of North Texas had the lowest at $2,986.
The committee, which met in January, included four student representatives, four faculty, one dean, one staff member and three UH vice presidents.
The Student Fees Advisory Committee, which met from Feb. 11 until Feb. 20, will recommend that student fees not increase for fiscal year 2009 and stay at $185 per semester for full-time students. The University Center and Recreation Center fees will not increase next year, Vice President of Student Affairs Elwyn Lee said.
Student representatives David Rosen, Samuel Dike and Steven Quezada, who presented the committee with a five-part plan to curb tuition increases in January, said three parts of the plan that will be recommended to UH President Renu Khator will help students with the increasing tuition costs.
The three proposals the committee will make to Khator are to cap tuition increases at 6 percent annually for two years, provide a "two-for-one" deal for certain Summer IV courses and increase the family plan’s minimum household income to $30,000 from $25,000 so that more students are eligible for financial aid. The family plan defrays any tuition and fees for eligible students that are not covered by other aid, and if approved the changes would take effect for the incoming freshman in Fall 2008.
Philosophy and business sophomore Matthew Arenas told the panel the recommendation to give families with a $30,000 annual income more financial aid would not be enough help.
"My family makes a relatively good amount of money, yet I don’t receive any aid from them," he told Foss during the question-and-answer session of the forum. "We don’t have any help at all…. Cash is king."
Political science junior Stephanie Caballero said the committee had not done a good job informing students on the proposed increases.
"It’s our responsibility to know what these fees are and that they are OK by us," she said of the committee not releasing information prior to the forum or advertising. "I think every student should see this."
The committee will make its recommendations to Khator, who will then recommend a budget to the UH System Board of Regents, who can approve, change or reject the proposal.
Foss said that during the committee meetings he was informed by Chief Information Officer Dennis Fouty that students are enrolled in 100,000 seats in online classes through WebCT. Some of the tuition and fee increases would go to maintaining the Information Technology infrastructure, Foss said.
The price of periodicals and serial subscriptions students utilize through the M.D. Anderson Library is expected to increase approximately $500,000 for fiscal year 2009, and this cost will be defrayed by student tuition and fees.
Some students agreed that the increase in fees was a positive thing to keep up with technology.
Broadcast journalism sophomore Corina Barrera said during the forum that students should educate themselves about services the University offers.
"More people should take advantage of what’s on their bill," Barrera said.
Vice President of Administration and Finance Jim McShan said part of the student fees will increase UHPD officer salaries because of high turnover within the department. McShan said the University hasn’t been competitive with the Houston Police Department’s or the Harris Country Sheriff’s Office’s pay.
UH Police Chief Malcolm Davis told The Daily Cougar in September that turnover was not a problem, as the average UHPD officer makes $38,400 while an HPD officer makes a minimum of $37,103.