Dear Parents and Students,
News about increases in college tuition seems as predictable as the first autumn chill. Each year, about this time, we hear that college tuition has gone up again. You may have seen or heard news reports this week that the average tuition at four-year public universities climbed 6.5 percent this fall, according to The College Board.
We can’t make the cost of a high-quality education disappear, nor can we reverse a national, decades-long trend of declining public funding of higher education, which shifts an increasing proportion of the cost to students and their families.
But, at UT Dallas, we are taking a proactive approach toward managing tuition costs. Incoming students at UT Dallas are promised that their tuition rates and mandatory fees will remain the same for four years from the time they begin their studies. This fixed plan guarantees no tuition increases or surprises, and it encourages students to complete their degrees in a timely manner. Currently, we have about 12,000 students who have not paid any tuition increases since this program began. For these students, getting a “zero” (percent tuition increase) has been a good number!
For students transferring from community colleges—often our most price-conscious group—we offer the Comet Connection program. Qualified students enrolled at participating two-year schools can lock in the same fall 2009 rate offered to UT Dallas freshmen. In other words, a student locks in a fixed tuition rate, attends community college, and then transfers to UT Dallas and pays the locked-in rate.
So popular is this program that we now have agreements with every community college in Texas. This year we have 890 transfer students who have locked in their tuition costs. To my knowledge, this is the only program of this type in the nation in which a student can lock-in a fixed tuition rate for a four-year university while attending a community college.
Higher education is now a matter of consumer choice. With options there are always plusses and minuses that savvy consumers will take into account. When tuition costs are fixed, the University has to average the costs over four years. As a result, the first year tuition bill may be somewhat higher than that of a conventional state university. It’s like a fixed-rate home mortgage—you lock in the mortgage rate for the security and stability of known costs, and don’t necessarily receive as low a first-year interest rate as you would with a variable-rate mortgage. We have seen that many students and their families prefer the known over the unknown. Stability is especially important in times like these, when some universities are implementing double-digit tuition increases to offset reduced state funding. Our goal is to provide an outstanding education for students, and we do not want tuition surprises to ever be a hindrance to graduation—so we’ve eliminated them.
When we started this fixed tuition plan two years ago, we did not know what the future would bring. We certainly could not have predicted the national recession that hit in late 2008. While incomes for many dropped, the cost of a four-year public university education went up for most. In this environment, it seems clear that fixed tuition has served our students and their families well.
As always, we seek comments and suggestions, and I encourage you to share your feedback and suggestions with me by replying to this email or at firstname.lastname@example.org.