Fall semester brings tuition increase
With only one dissenting vote, cast by regent Lynden Rose, the UH System Board of Regents approved a 5.5 percent systemwide increase for Fall 2008.
"I am not a happy person when it comes to asking students to pay more. But I think students will be able to handle it," Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Donald Foss said.
Even though a 5.9 percent increase in tuition and fees for the University of Houston only translates to a budget increase of about 2 percent, UH officials say the increase should keep the University from falling short of its monetary needs.
"I believe UH will go on well with the 5.9 percent increase," Foss said.
Down from last year’s 6.9 percent hike, the 5.9 percent increase translates to a $185 increase for a 12-hour course load, up to $3,329 total for the semester from last year’s $3,144.
The 5.5 percent systemwide increase is expected to bring in an additional $17 million in funding for UH.
Of the total $17 million in increased revenue, $2.6 million will be used for financial aid programs. The Cougar Promise, a new financial relief program also approved by the board, will cover tuition and fees for eligible freshmen with family incomes less than $30,000.
Nearly 3 percent of UH’s generated revenue of $7.3 million will be used for faculty and staff salary increases, nearly $1.9 million will go toward new faculty positions and $1 million is slated for increased support for student services in areas such as financial aid, enrollment, and PeopleSoft 8.9 support.
"The cost of living rose nearly 3.9 percent last year. It would be sending the wrong signal to decline to give a cost of living raise to our faculty," Board of Regents Chairman Welcome Wilson said. "We can’t be successful in that endeavor to reach flagship status if we can’t give a cost of living raise to our faculty."
In addition to increased tuition, because of inflationary costs, the regents also raised the prices for student housing, parking and meal plans.
"This is a matter of paying the bills," Wilson said.
Depending on the dorm, the increase in student housing ranged from 5 to 12.5 percent, parking rates will increase 7 percent, and meal plans will increase an average of 3.5 percent.
Plausible alternatives to increasing tuition at UH would call for both increased state funding and long-term approach to aggressive fundraising, Wilson said.
"It’s a very difficult process and there was a lot of angst to try to keep this cost to a minimum," Vice President for Administration and Finance Jim McShan said. "Our goal is to give as much quality as we can without making it cost prohibitive."
With the ever-rising price tag of tuition, losing students to either local community colleges or flagship status institutions such as the University of Texas and Texas A’M is becoming a concern.
"There’s no question that the community colleges are a bargain," Wilson said. "I’m confident we’ll lose students who will go to community college to fulfill their core studies."
From raising the bar for incoming freshmen’s SAT scores to increasing the number of postdoctoral fellows conducting research on campus, UH has a hefty share of requirements ahead of itself before it can be branded a flagship university.
"We’re not going to get to Tier 1 status on the backs of students," Wilson said. "We’re going to get it by additional funds from the federal government, the state government and industries."
Foss said UH System Chancellor and UH President, Renu Khator, who was unavailable for comment, increased her attempts to raise funds from private donors and alumni.
"Raising money for additional funds to help balance need-based versus merit-based scholarships will definitely be a priority," Foss said.
Even though Student Government Association President Sam Dike opposed increased tuition rates, for the student leader, the increase was beneficial in some respects.
"We ended up coming out with a lot more than an increase," Dike said.
SGA was somewhat successful in its five-part plan to lessen the financial burden for students, which it proposed in January.
The board approved a 6 percent cap for tuition increases for incoming freshmen, reduced rates for summer courses, and an increase to $30,000 from $25,000 for the maximum adjusted gross family income required for students to be exempt from paying tuition and mandatory fees.
UH-Downtown, UH-Clear Lake and UH-Victoria received tuition increases of 4.1 percent, 5.9 percent and 5 percent respectively.