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Public hearing spotlights tuition increase

Published: Sunday, December 8, 2013

Updated: Sunday, December 8, 2013 23:12

With student loan after student loan, Cameron Fawcett, senior mechanical engineering major, has borrowed and saved to afford an education. Fiscal burdens are certainly not uncommon among students across the country, and a proposal submitted by University officials calling for an increase in tuition at A&M has sparked conversation and concern among students like Fawcett.

The proposal, which would raise the tuition of incoming freshman for the 2015 fiscal year by up to six percent and tuition for current students by up to two percent, was announced at the Dec. 4 public hearing by the Council for Strategic Budgeting as a means of complying with House Bill 29, which requires all Texas public universities to have a guaranteed tuition rate.

At the hearing, Karan Watson, Texas A&M provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said the University will be cutting 7,200 instructional enhancement fees and replacing them with fixed rate fees based on the college each student is enrolled in. These cuts, combined with the requirement that the University must give 20 percent of its tuition income to financial aid, are the reason for the tuition increases, Watson said.

Despite this reasoning, Fawcett said he is concerned that the University’s tuition increases will cause more students to use loans to pay for their schooling.

“It makes it harder for students with little income support to manage their finances,” Fawcett said. “The tuition increase is also going to increase student dependence on loans and other financial aid.”

Watson said the increases are minor and tuition rates will still reside well below the rates at the University of Texas, Texas Tech University and The University of North Texas.

Additionally, Watson said the proposals would come with certain benefits. This fixed rate would allow new students to know in advance how much their entire college career at A&M would cost, Watson said.

Watson said seniors will appear to be paying the least and freshman will appear to be paying the most, but this is only because the fixed rate calculates with inflation — the immediate six-percent increase for incoming freshmen will compensate for inflation in the upcoming years.

“It will, on average, mean that the students are paying slightly more than they are paying today on their course fees, but the only increase is to offset that set-aside,” Watson said. “The advantage to doing this is it will allow us to manage the funds better. It will increase the funding for need-based financial aid.”

Dulce Perez, Spanish and biology double major, said higher education has become less accessible to those with limited funds.

“I feel that they’re making education a luxury and they shouldn’t because there’s so many people with tons of potential,” Perez said.

Watson said A&M simply had to generate enough funds to comply with federal and state laws, while also having enough funds to run smoothly. Watson said the plan rests on the notion that if funds were collected simply on an as-used basis, A&M wouldn’t meet those requirements.

There were nearly 50 attendees at the hearing and around 60 online watchers. James Kim, senior aerospace engineering major, said students will not even realize tuition has gone up.

“I remember comparing tuition among the different universities I was accepted to, but it wasn’t a deciding factor in my decision to attend A&M,” Kim said.

These proposals made by The Council for Strategic Budgeting will be discussed and submitted as a recommendation to the University president who must then recommend it to the University System and the Board of Regents before it can be put into action.

 

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