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Monday, September 27, 2021

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Committee finalizes tuition plan


The Tuition and Fees Review Committee will recommend to UH President Renu Khator a cap on tuition increases, a tuition discount in summer courses and an expansioin of the family contract to increase students’ financial aid eligibility, Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Foss said.

"(It is) a matter of balancing the cost to the institution," Foss said of the committee recommendations.

Three of the five proposals made by Student Government Association representatives will be recommended to Khator, Foss said.

"There was a lot of respect for the students’ need for predictability," chemical engineering professor Richard Willson, a faculty representative on the committee, said.

Guaranteed tuition, another aspect of the original five-part plan, is not financially feasible to students, Willson said.

"To guarantee a fixed dollar amount from the start, for say five years, the first year amount would be big enough to be a real burden at the start," he said.

The committee agreed to cap tuition increases at 6 percent for two years, Foss said.

"The main reason is the uncertainty of the amount of support (the University) will get from the state Legislature," he said. "To make promises beyond that would not be responsible. We are mindful of the students’ situation."

Willson also said that students would be financially burdened under the proposed tuition plan if they did not graduate on time. Students who do not graduate in four or five years, depending on the type of degree, would not be covered by the guaranteed tuition plan.

"If someone has a guarantee for five years, and they end up staying six, the increase in the last year would be at least five years’ inflation – a huge shock," Willson said. "There was some thought that tuition increases at or about the inflation rate are not too painful, especially as students get better-paying jobs as they advance through college."

The committee came to a consensus in recommending increasing the family contract to $30,000 from $25,000 so that more students will be eligible to receive financial aid.

"We are interested in expanding the scope of the family contract," Foss said.

Currently, students with a family income of $25,000 or less are eligible for federal Pell Grants and need-based scholarships. The expansion of the plan would help more students receive financial aid, and Foss said that the goal of the committee would be to expand the family contract to include students whose family income is $40,000, although he did not specify a deadline for that goal.

The committee will not recommend halving summer tuition, as originally proposed, because it would cost the University approximately $12 million, student representative and SGA Vice President Samuel Dike said last week.

"To follow (the student representatives’) recommendation would be too expensive, in excess of $10 million," Foss said.

Instead, the committee will recommend expanding the Jump Program to all undergraduates by offering courses at a discounted rate during Summer IV. The Jump Program is available to incoming students and allows them to take six academic hours during the summer IV at a "two-for-one" rate.

Foss said that he would brief Khator on recommendations after the meetings and before the fee forums scheduled in late February.

At the first meeting, the committee said that increases in student fees would be used to fund services such as journal subscriptions, as subscription prices rise annually because of inflation, and increased student use of technology, such as WebCT.

"(We have to) make sure the ravages of inflation don’t eat us up," Foss said.

According to a tentative schedule produced by the committee, administrators will provide information to students at fee forums during the week of Feb. 25.

After the fee forums, Khator will make her recommendations to the UH System Board of Regents during the week of March 10.

The board previously approved a 6.9 percent tuition and fees increase in June, which raised tuition for 12 undergraduate credit hours last fall to $3,144 from $2,942, an increase of $202.


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