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July 20, 2004     (512) 463-0300

Senate Committees Examine College Costs

The Senate Finance Committee and Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education today concluded a series of hearings on the cost of college in Texas today. The committees are developing a statewide accountability system for higher education that is consistent with funding available for higher education.

Teri Flack of the Higher Education Coordinating Board described the differing ways that various Texas universities are assisting students with financial aid. Saying that "it's like a car, no one pays the sticker price", she asked the committees to remember that funding education is a joint effort between the state, university, and the student. One issue is that as tuition rises along with household income, fewer and fewer students find themselves eligible for financial aid.

David Gardener, also of the Coordinating Board, told the committee that in the coming year the Board will be focusing on undergraduate excellence, with the goal of increasing graduation rates.

The four chancellors of the University of Texas, Texas A&M, University of Houston and Texas Tech University systems followed. Dr. David Smith of Texas Tech said that universities must be accountable not only to the state, but to the families of the students as well. To that end, he said Texas Tech has been making information about the university available through the Internet. He also said that Tech is working to ensure that students graduate in a timely manner, since that saves money for both state and student alike.

Dr. Joy Gogue of the University of Houston System, said that tuition increases had not had a substantial impact. Normally, the University of Houston sees a six percent yearly increase in requests for tuition assistance, and Gogue said this number has not increased. This year's tuition increase at his university totaled approximately $7.8 million dollars.

Dr. Benton Cocanougher from Texas A&M reported that tuition increases at his institution have not had an adverse impact on the ethnic makeup of the incoming freshman class, due to what he said was a reallocation of funds in recruiting.

Dr. Mark Yudof, from The University of Texas, said that the UT System is facing flat revenue overall, while total student population continues to increase. He testified that despite tuition increases, UT-Austin is still "doing pretty well on affordability", since many lower-income families have received assistance in paying the higher rates. On the other hand, he said that there will be 300 thousand new students over the next ten years, and that Texas universities and colleges are simply not equipped to handle them. Public testimony followed.

The Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee is Senator Steve Ogden. Members include Senator Judith Zaffirini, serving as vice-chair, Kip Averitt, Gonzalo Barrientos, Kim Brimer, Bob Deuell, Robert Duncan, Kyle Janek, Jane Nelson, Florence Shapiro Eliot Shapleigh, Todd Staples, Royce West, John Whitmire and Tommy Williams. The Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education is chaired by Senator Royce West and includes senators Kip Averitt, Kyle Janek, Todd Staples and Leticia Van de Putte. Both committees recessed subject to call of the chair.

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