UTPB gets OK for tuition hike

The University of Texas System Board of Regents on Monday approved two-year tuition increases submitted by all academic UT institutions, including the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, to provide them with needed revenue to boost student success, including an emphasis on increasing graduation rates and recruiting and retaining top faculty.

The approved increases, to be instituted in the fall of 2018, range from $6 to $306 per semester for in-state undergraduate tuition, depending on the institution, followed by increases of $100 to $300 per semester in the fall of 2019, a news release said.

As part of the Board’s consideration, it required tuition proposals from all eight UT academic institutions to include detailed plans for how the increased revenue would directly support student and faculty excellence. Each institution was also required to gather substantial input from students and the local community on the impact of tuition increases as it developed its proposal, the release said.

Currently, resident undergraduate tuition and fees for 15 semester credit hours is $3,616, counting required fees per semester, UTPB President Sandra Woodley said Monday.

For 2018, tuition and fees will increase to $3,922 for 15 semester credit hours, Woodley said.

In 2019, it will rise to $4,233 for 15 semester credit hours. The increase will bring in about $1.5 million in net revenue, she said. This includes fees specifically earmarked for things like athletics and technology capacity.

“We greatly appreciate the support on the tuition increases,” Woodley said. “For us, it’s about $300 per semester for undergraduate students. That was really important for us to be able to pour those funds into the strategic planning we’re doing at the university.”

Woodley said the funds would go toward strategic enrollment management, providing amenities and student support services for retention and graduation.

She added that one of the things UTPB will do with the funds is earmark more than what’s required for needs-based financial aid.

“Even with this $300 increase for the students, it still puts us below the average of our peers. So we’re still relatively affordable and we’re taking extra steps to ensure we have students with need won’t see an increase at all,” Woodley said. “We want to make sure that as we increase the resources to the institution, we don’t price out students who may have a financial barrier.”

She also wants to make sure students have a good experience with everything from paying their bills to getting financial aid and having professional advisors on hand.

“The other thing we’re working on is creating a welcoming, inviting space for students, particularly traditional students to want to come,” Woodley said.

This would include secure, 24-hour study spaces at the Student Activity Center, providing secure access via keycards and easier access to technology for studying and participating in group projects, for example, she said.

She said there will be a comprehensive approach to grow the university over the next five years and she will be working with community leaders and the UT System to accomplish the goals.

Institutions asking for the highest percentage increases, including UT El Paso, UPTB and UT Tyler, currently have tuition rates less than $4,000 per semester, still placing them among the most affordable in Texas and significantly lower than peer institutions across the nation, the release said.

For the first time, UT El Paso, UTPB, UT Rio Grande Valley, UT San Antonio and UT Tyler will charge “differential” tuition based on a student’s major. Programs that cost more to operate, such as business and engineering, typically charge higher tuition rates. UT Arlington, UT Austin and UT Dallas already have differential tuition programs in place.

Tuition proposals for out-of-state students, graduate and professional students were also approved by the Regents.

In addition, the System’s six health science institutions received authorization for their respective five-year tuition plans, with the vast majority of increases for health profession programs averaging less than 5 percent per year, the release said.

Currently, tuition for health profession programs is among the lowest in the country. For example, medical school tuition costs less than two-thirds of the national average for public medical schools. Similarly, the debt burden for graduates of UT medical schools is a quarter lower than the national average, the release said.

The UT System Board of Regents last approved tuition increases for academic and health institutions in February 2016. Prior to that, most UT in-state undergraduate students had seen little to no increase in tuition since the fall of 2012, the release said.