Fixed tuition not enough to curb college costs
There are many costs to attending college, but many students still believe that not attending college is more expensive in the long run. With rising costs and more students being unable to pay their loans back, many students just aren’t sure if they will be able to afford college.
Fortunately, there has been some recognition of the issue of rising costs. UH is offering this year’s freshmen an opportunity to fix their tuition rate for four years. This is a welcome and refreshing step in the right direction for students.
Through this optional program, students can get a much better idea of how much money they will be spending over the course of earning their bachelor’s degrees. The plan comes in accordance with the passing of House Bill 29 of the Texas 83rd legislature, which requires all public universities in Texas to offer an optional fixed tuition plan.
Similar to buying a car or home, Texas students can now see how much their investment will cost them and begin making more concrete plans on how to pay for their expenses. However, this is not a final solution to the problem of rising college costs and student debt.
Some students need more than four years to graduate. These students will still deal with the costs of hyper-inflating college tuition, regardless of the reason why they need more time.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the six-year graduation rate is 49 percent and tuition has increased 90 percent since Texas deregulated it in 2003.
Texas universities that have offered fixed-tuition options in the past have had mixed results due these issues, as many people take longer because they are working their way through, don’t have the time or don’t want to pay the higher initial costs of a fixed rate.
The bill may be a good step for encouraging graduation and for curbing rising costs, but it does not solve the root of the issue. College still costs too much, and the cost is still rising too quickly.
These costs raise the question of where the students’ money is going. The answer is a complex one, but there are many things still left to be done on the part of UH and Texas’ legislative body.
There are many potential culprits, such as the rising number of administrative jobs at universities, the money being poured into attracting new students, easy-to-obtain financial aid and reduced government aid. I won’t claim to know how to solve the more complex issues without running into more issues; however, there are many cost-cutting steps the University could be taking but is choosing not to.
One such step is towards larger and more open online courses. Many classes do not need to be taught in a person-to-person setting, and such classes can be taught by one professor to thousands at a time for a fraction of the cost.
While the University does offer online classes, they have not been capitalized on and their potential has not been fully reached. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on the other hand, offers hundreds, if not thousands, of free online courses.
While some teachers make efforts to save their students money on materials, they are often instructed not to tell their students where to get their books the cheapest. Many schools, including UH, are actively hurting their students when it comes to the price of textbooks.
Some authors release new versions of textbooks with little to show for it other than making used versions obsolete. Campus bookstores and publishers do not need special rights to the contents of our wallets.
While we take placement exams for math and languages, we fail to take placement exams for other core classes. Because many topics are available online, some students can become proficient on history topics, politics, government, humanities and other core classes. Even though AP exams are available at many high schools, there are many issues that can come with AP credits.
Although many core classes are arguably important for a rounded education, many classes are made mandatory for the sake of subsidizing certain departments. Teaching to a student’s level, administering and encouraging more placement exams and cutting unnecessary courses from degree plans could save students thousands of dollars over the course of their education.
These are just a few suggestions that have some potential to save the student’s dollar. They don’t solve the root of the issue, and they don’t solve the debt crisis that many modern students are dealing with. I encourage Texas legislators, UH administrators and most importantly, my fellow Cougars to continue looking for ways to curb the rising costs of school.
Fixed tuition may be a move in the right direction, but it’s barely a nudge. With enough demand, perhaps we can finally start making college somewhat affordable again.
Opinion columnist Shane Brandt is a petroleum engineering senior and may be reached at [email protected].