Incoming Cougars get payment alternative

Mahnoor Samana/The Daily Cougar

Mahnoor Samana/The Daily Cougar

A bill addressing college costs sneaked itself into law books last month. Gov. Rick Perry, temporarily forgoing his policy of noncompliance, signed off on a document that gives the class of 2017 another means of compensating funds.

It all comes down to tuition. Freshmen can opt for the “wheel-of-fortune payment plan,” allowing for courses of questionable scope and importance to ring up at varying prices at all points in the year; or a fixed rate alternative, an option that has an allure of certainty.

Under the latter, the cost of tuition is frozen during the course of exactly four years. This is the good news. The bad is exactly the same: The cost of tuition is frozen during the course of exactly four years.

Provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, Paula Short, thinks predictability is worth the compression.

“A four-year fixed tuition and fee option sends a strong signal to students that we expect them to graduate in four years, (providing) them with a powerful incentive to do so,” Short said. “Incoming freshmen who select the fixed-rate option, complete 30 hours per year, and graduate in four years will be rewarded with a lower price for their college degree.”

The result is accountability on all fronts. Newcomers pay a single rate per credit hour, giving them the means to map more than 1,400 days worth of funds on their phones — a biblical offering for long-term planners.

The only way the University could further outdo itself is to pay the money for you.

But, if things stay the way they are now, less than half of the student body will graduate in four years.

UH sports a six-year graduation rate of 46.1 percent and a four-year graduation rate of 16.2 percent.

This isn’t classified information. The University suggests that students take at least 15 hours, and not simply because it looks better on your schedule bracket. Taking any less lowers your probability of making it out in a timely manner, while a consistent nonchalance aggravates your prospects even further.

The news about the graduation rates is discouraging.

What is also discouraging is that the fixed rate option is as nonnegotiable as it sounds. There’s no adjustment to account for the inevitable rising and falling of our economy.

Simplicity doesn’t necessarily equate stability. Knowing exactly how much you have to pay isn’t always helpful when it comes to accounting for the unaccountable, and less so once you’ve come to terms with the fact that these prices are locked in. Keep in mind that, in Texas, tuition costs have risen more than 90 percent in the past 10 years; and that’s something no one could’ve planned for.

Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph E. Stiglitz, deems curbing student debt tantamount to increasing social and economic opportunity.

“America — home of the land-grant university, the G.I. Bill and world-class public universities from California to Texas — has fallen from the top in terms of university education. With strangling student debt, we are likely to fall further,” he wrote in The New York Times. “What economists call ‘human capital’— investing in people — is a key to long-term growth. To be competitive in the 21st century is to have a highly educated labor force, one with college and advanced degrees. Instead, we are foreclosing on our future as a nation.”

The student debt situation only becomes worse when student loans are added to the equation. With Congress’ inability to come to terms in June, the student loan interest rate hit 6.8 percent last week. That’s twice what you thought you’d been paying beforehand, and it’ll stay there until both parties agree on a feasible consensus.

The average amount of debt for seniors graduating stands around $26,000. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York claims that nearly 13 percent of student loan borrowers owe more than $50,000, with nearly four percent of that group owing more than $100,000.

The figures aren’t changing any time soon. As unendurable as it seems to sit through another article about university payments, it’ll stay that way until the topic has been broached again and again. The solution box sits vacant until its presence becomes undeniable. In order for student debt to become a problem relevant enough to solve, the scenario will have to get worse.

More so than its accessibility, its simplicity, and its promotability, it’s the promise of “no good news fast” that makes the fixed rate option appealing. It knows the situation is bleak. It accepts that you know it too. And it’s from this knowledge that you’re given an alternative.

Bryan Washington is an English junior and can be reached at [email protected].

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