Tuition Freeze at University of Texas at Arlington

As the rest of the country believes raising tuition fees is near-on inevitable, the University of Texas has taken the maverick decision to freeze their rates.

Jennifer Fox, president of the Student Congress and senior accounting major, was told that the University of Texas at Arlington was going to propose a tuition freeze for the 2012-13 academic year by university president James Spaniolo, writes Beckie Supiano at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“My initial reaction was shock,” she says.

Student leaders had assumed tuition would go up especially in light of state budget cuts and as it has almost everywhere else in the country. According to a report by The Associated Press, the national average for in-state tuition and fees at a four-year public university rose by just over 8 percent, compared to last year.

“I think there was a little bit of surprise,” Mr. Spaniolo said after presenting the plan to the Tuition Review Committee, which includes students representing each of the university’s colleges, as well as faculty and alumni, and is chaired by Ms. Fox.

Nationally, a full credit load has passed $8,000 per year, an all-time high, and year, total outstanding student loan debt passed $1 trillion, more than Americans owe in credit card debt.

Under the plan, UT-Arlington would not raise undergraduate or graduate tuition and fees, or the price of room and board, for the coming year. Currently, undergraduate tuition and fees average $9,292 for full-time students, depending on which college students are in, and room and board costs $7,554.

The idea of freezing tuition was the consensus of top administrators, Mr. Spaniolo says.

“We want to make a statement that we’re concerned about affordability for our students,” he says.

A recent student poll found that around 70 percent of UT-Arlington students work, Ms. Fox. says, and many hold more than one job. And one of the key reasons why the administration decided a tuition freeze was feasible is UT-Arlington’s recent enrollment growth.

Over the last five years the University saw an increase of more than 30 percent. And this expected to continue, though, realistically, at a much slower pace.

Also, funding was key. Mr. Spaniolo says, while the university lost some state support, the cut was not as deep as expected.

The university’s proposal is for a one-year freeze, even though tuition for campuses of the University of Texas system is usually set every other year, indicating that they’re giving themselves room to move on the issue. Members of the tuition committee will gather feedback from the groups they represent. The panel will meet again on November 29 to decide whether to support the proposal,  which Ms. Fox expects it will endorse.

And thanks to law passed by Texas where universities were given the authority to set tuition back in 2003, the administration does not need the committee’s approval to take the next step: passing the proposal on to the system’s Board of Regents.

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