Fixed tuition gets mixed reviews



Starting in the fall, incoming freshmen and undergraduate transfer students will have the opportunity to choose a four-year fixed tuition rate.

The UH System has asked Texas Legislature for a delay in the implementation of the option until Fall 2014, among other requests. To the Board of Regents, the UH Political Action Committee and Chancellor Renu Khator, the time necessary to inform students and program changes required for student information systems just isn’t enough.

The University welcomes the idea of a four-year fixed tuition option, said President and Chancellor Renu Khator.

“But we are proposing modifications to make it a true option for students, since many of our students are part-time and many are unable to make a four-year financial commitment at once,” Khator said.

According to the Almanac of Higher Education 2011, 23 percent of full-time undergraduate students, who are 24 or younger, work 20 hours or more per week. With limited time to take classes, some are forced to extend their time passed the typical four years in college.

“I am completely for the four-year fixed tuition. It makes sense to pay the same amount while you’re in school,” said political science and liberal studies double major senior Yesenia Chavez. “But it does concern me to have a fixed amount of time, because I’m definitely not graduating in four years and that’s basically an old-school institution kind of thing.”

Students who opt for a double major degree plan will graduate after completing a minimum of 150 semester credit hours. Even enrolling full-time, double majors typically don’t graduate in the traditional timeframe.

Among graduates in 2009 who continuously enrolled full-time, 45 percent needed an extra year or more to earn a four-year degree, according Beginning Postsecondary Student Rates from the National Center for Education Statistics.

In 2012 the four-year graduation rate for UH was 12 percent, while the six-year graduation rate was higher at 41 percent, according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

“Four years definitely isn’t going to happen for me. I’ve changed my major three times and I might even do it again,” said biology junior Hien Nguyen. “It’s hard to choose what I want to be doing after I graduate. The job market is tough. I need to be sure.”

When a student changes his major, any courses already taken not directly related to the new major are essentially wasted. Students are forced to play catch-up by taking additional classes to replace credits lost. As a result, the number of semesters it takes to graduate steadily increases.

Preparations for the program have yet to be developed pending legislation outcomes. Currently, the option doesn’t allow for academic progress or continuous enrollment requirements for students to maintain eligibility.

“If academic progress requirements were allowed, UH would likely require students to earn 24-30 hours per year to remain eligible,” said Assistant Vice President for Planning and Policy Chris Stanich. “But we are not moving forward until we have more clarity on the outcome of this bill.”

Fixed-tuition pricing tends to be more expensive than the non-fixed variety. This is in part to account for inflation during the four-year period, Stanich said. The higher price tag is balanced by the certainty of knowing the total cost of a college education up front. An exact amount has not yet been discussed.

Pending the outcome of the provisions to the bill, a press release will be issued officially announcing the program to incoming students. A fixed-tuition option for current students has not been discussed.

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