- Associated Press - Sunday, April 10, 2016

DALLAS (AP) - While a bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers says college students would get a better deal if politicians set tuition and fees, a newspaper analysis shows that costs rose faster at most public colleges and universities in the state when lawmakers set the prices.

The Dallas Morning News (https://bit.ly/1Xpic23 ) reports its analysis of average undergraduate tuition and fees over the last quarter-century run counter to much of the narrative from Austin politicians, who cite increases since four-year public university administrators started deciding 13 years ago. The Legislature ceded the power of controlling tuition and fees to schools in 2003.

Those leading the charge for the “re-regulation” of tuition and fees - giving that power back to lawmakers - cite steep increases since 2003. But that’s based on incomplete data published by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which didn’t track data for the years preceding deregulation.

The newspaper analyzed all 37 Texas four-year public colleges and relied on federal data from the National Center for Education Statistics, which goes back much farther than what the state maintains.

The trends - and how lawmakers choose to look at them - will be a crucial factor in a looming showdown over whether the Legislature should take tuition-setting power from university officials.

When presented with the newspaper’s findings, David E. Daniel, deputy chancellor of the University of Texas System, said regents are the “best positioned” to make tuition decisions. “They have a deep understanding of each institution’s unique circumstances,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has led a push to examine tuition in next year’s legislative session. He’s blamed “outrageous spending” on top leaders’ salaries and bonuses, sports programs and administrative expenses for driving up costs. He said schools “seem not to be focused on controlling spending.”

Asked about The News’ findings, Patrick, a Republican, said Democrats who controlled the Legislature at the time might be to blame.

“The difference between that year that you point to, 2003, is (that is) when the Democrats no longer had control of spending and the Republicans took control of spending,” Patrick said.

Average costs for full-time undergraduates rose at a higher clip at 12 of the 37 Texas campuses analyzed, or less than one-third, when school administrators were in control. But those dozen campuses were catching up with the rest of the state, the data suggest. At the time of deregulation, they were charging on average nearly $1,000 less than the rest of the schools.

On average, Texas college students paid just less than $1,000 a year in 1990, compared with more than $7,000 now.

The skyrocketing costs have coincided with significant cuts in what the state spends on public colleges and universities.

Staunch conservatives such as Patrick and his Senate leaders want to control costs but offer no indication of wanting to invest significant state money. Meanwhile, there are Democrats who also want to control costs but seem more willing to allocate state dollars.

“Some of our most liberal members as well as some of our most conservative members want to either cap tuition or take control of it back at the legislative level,” said Patrick, whose chamber is leading the discussion. “I support both. You know, regulating tuition again at the state level is something we shouldn’t have to do, but we’re going to do it, I believe, if they don’t start acting much more responsibly.”


Information from: The Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide