Controlling Tuition Increases
President Barack Obama recently said, “Let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.”
Some in higher education call his statement “political theater.” But it’s true: The price individual students pay for higher education has increased over the past two decades. Not because universities haven’t tried to limit costs. But because reduced government funding has already happened.
In 1991, for every dollar a UT Dallas student paid in tuition, the State of Texas provided $4.23 in funding. Last year, for every dollar paid in tuition, the state provided 41 cents.
Next fall, state support will drop to about 37 cents for every dollar of tuition. We have become a tuition-supported, state-assisted institution. We are not unique—the numbers are similar at most of the nation’s major public research universities.
At UT Dallas, we were addressing the cost of tuition before President Obama was elected. In 2007, we launched Guaranteed Fixed Tuition, offering students four years of fixed tuition and fees. This past fall, more than 13,000 UTD students paid no tuition increase.
At the same time because of steps to limit cost, the increase in per-student spending at UT Dallas has been limited to a rate not much higher than the consumer price index. Students and families find us a good value, choosing UT Dallas in record numbers. Fall 2011 brought us the largest enrollment growth of any four-year university in Texas, with an incoming freshman class of even greater academic achievement than usual.
Most university administrators avoid fixed-rate tuition. It limits their ability to react to large reductions in state funding. Universities that do not graduate many students in the traditional four-year time frame also are disadvantaged by a plan like ours.
But for UT Dallas, the goodwill earned by locking in tuition offsets potential financial risks. We are committed to graduating our students on time and at higher and higher rates. Our tuition program makes sense for our students, who are our No. 1 priority.
Our tuition program has changed the nature of the conversation about tuition for the better. We now talk about a long-term vision for our University, and the resources necessary to achieve it. We don’t discuss how increases affect current students, because they don’t affect current students. We see UT Dallas students engaged in thoughtful, strategic conversation about the University’s future. That’s how it should be.
We approach tuition with the welfare of our students first in mind, but with an uncompromising sense of responsibility to maintain quality and build the top-tier research university that our community needs. Thank you for your support, and please feel free to share your feedback and thoughts with me.
About This Newsletter
The President’s Viewpoint is a periodic newsletter distributed to a select group of alumni, friends, faculty and staff. It comes from the desk of Dr. David E. Daniel, president of The University of Texas at Dallas, and provides the ultimate insider’s view on the news and concerns of the University.