Tuition battles both students and administration

The Board of Regents decided during the summer to increase tuition by about 3.95 percent, or $13 per undergraduate semester hour, beginning this fall to generate $10 million for the University.

This tuition increase isn’t just a UH occurrence. According to an analysis by The Dallas Morning News, tuition and fees at state universities have risen 55 percent in 10 years across the state. Dominic Chavez, spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, said this is due primarily to decreases in state funding and bloated institutions.

Some UH students find the tuition increase necessary and inevitable.

“I see it as a significant investment in areas where we have significant problems,” said Cedric Bandoh, Student Government Association president and member of the Tuition & Fee Committee.

SGA proposed four major strategies to improve student success this new school year: improve educational advising, increase the number of faculty, increase financial aid and enhance libraries. Bandoh said in the FY2014 Tuition and Fees Public Forum that about $15 million would be needed to accomplish these goals.

To generate this revenue, however, students would have to take on a 7 percent increase in tuition, which is more than UH can ask of students, according to Carl Carlucci, executive vice president and vice chancellor for Administration and Finance. The agreed number of 3.95 percent 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.”

UH’s top priority will be academic advising.

“We are currently meeting with colleges over the summer to identify specific areas for improvement within colleges as well as a survey that will go out soon to get feedback from students regarding advising,” Bandoh said.

With the tuition increase, UH will still be more affordable than other major Texas universities. Affordable Colleges Online ranks UH No. 7 in Texas based on return on investment — a statistic that compares post-graduation salaries to tuition rates — which shows that UH is moving up the charts.

The Board of Regents also approved the administration’s recommendation to create a fixed-tuition plan, which can help students and their families plan ahead and stay on track of their finances when it comes to paying for college. 

“(The fixed-tuition plan) is exciting because it will provide some cost predictability and will incentivize timely completion (of a degree),” Bandoh said.

Administration believes this plan will help improve UH’s four-year graduation rate by giving students financial motivation to stick to their plan.

“(Improving graduation rates) is very important for Dr. Renu Khator,” said Chris Stanich, assistant vice president and assistant vice chancellor of Planning and Policy, at the Tuition and Fees Public Forum. “She has labeled this a ‘no-excuse priority.’”

Details regarding who will qualify are currently under development and will be finalized later in the year, Bandoh said, but the plan will most likely be offered to incoming freshmen who will be required to attend full time.

Some believe the majority of UH students won’t be able to benefit from the four-year tuition plan. According to Career Services director David Small, more than 70 percent of students work at least part-time and can’t commit to taking a full load every semester.

“We’re currently working closely with the provost to ensure that the plan is clear so students and families can plan and make decisions that work best for their individual situation,” Bandoh said. “I do believe this is doable and will have a major impact.”

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