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Monday, January 25, 2021

Administration

State funds shrink, tuition increases


Administrators from the Provost’s Office and the Division of Administration and Finance discussed tuition and fees for the upcoming academic year in last week’s forum, including an increase in tuition.

In the last 30 years, the government support that goes into UH’s operating budget, including sources and funds, went from 61 percent in 1983 to 22 percent in 2013.

“This isn’t a UH phenomenon,” Associate Vice President and Vice Chancellor of Finance Tom Ehardt said. “This is a phenomenon typical to all state-supported institutions in Texas and largely typical across nation.”

“The largest share of the dollars that comes from the state of Texas comes through something called formula funding, which is largely based on the semester credit hours that we generate,” he said.

The formula is calculated by multiplying the semester credit hours by the program’s weight and by the rate. Semester credit hours are a measurement of how many classes, and the number of students enrolled in those classes, an institution delivers. Semester credit hours are weighted by discipline, for instance nursing is weighted more than liberal arts, and by level, such as masters, doctoral and professional, according to a report from the Legislative Budget Board.

“All universities are funded level across the state,” Ehardt said. “Some institutions get more or less funding based on the variants of the formula, but the formula is the same.”

Full funding of the formula is number one priority in President and Chancellor Renu Khator’s legislative agenda, Ehardt said.

“It is primarily President Khator who is working with the legislative delegation of this region and the Higher Education Committees to really convey to them the importance of maximizing the formula funding to serve the needs of students,” said Assistant Vice President and Assistant Vice Chancellor of Planning and Policy Chris Stanich.

Stanich went on to speak about some of the problems UH needs to address.

“The availability of resources really does have consequences in terms of the services that we are able to provide students, and the things we are able to do to improve important performance measurements, like the number of graduates that we produce,” he said.

“Graduation rates is one of the most important performance measurements that we are held accountable for, not only by the state but by national rating agencies and other organizations that are evaluating UH for its Tier One status.”

UH’s graduation rates fall short when compared to other major Texas universities. UH’s 4-year graduation rate is at 16.2 percent while Texas A&M and University of Texas at Austin are in the 50 percent range. Similarly, UH’s 6-year rate is at 46.1 against 80 percent of A&M and UT-Austin.

“This is something that is very important for Dr. Khator,” Stanich said. “She has labeled this ‘no excuse priority.’ She wants to move University of Houston’s 6-year graduation rate as quickly as possible to 56 percent.”

Student Government Association’s President Cedric Bandoh discussed four major strategies to improve student success in the upcoming year. He said UH goals need to be to improve student advising through technology and improved student/adviser ratio, increase the number of faculty to meet enrollment demand and improve student-faculty ratio, increase financial aid and enhance libraries, as UH falls below national average on all of those aspects.

To fund these strategies, UH will need  more than $15 million.

“I think that everybody supports these goals and supports the concept of focusing on actions that create student success,” Executive Vice President and Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Carl Carlucci said. “The estimate of the resources needed appear to be based on reasonable numbers, so I accept them.”

“The problem is the number, $15 million, is more than we accomplish or more than we can ask students to take on a tuition increase,” Carlucci said. “The number itself is just too high, and it would require an increase of something like 7 percent in tuition to produce this kind of revenue. That is just not something that we can do. We don’t think it’s appropriate to ask for it, and we also don’t think that, politically, it’s the right thing to do in a year like this.”

Carlucci said that the recommended maximum that can be asked in tuition increase, and that he believes the public will find acceptable is an increase of about 3.95 percent. This number is based on a bill proposed in 2009, which did not pass but has been informally accepted. This increase would create $10 million, which would take care of two thirds of the problems listed by Bandoh.

“The rest will have to be put off for future years,” Carlucci said. “We are trying to stick with what the legislature and the public thought was a reasonable number.”

Optional fees, housing, parking, study abroad and other expenses will not count toward the $10 million that will be raised from increase in tuition.

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