Texas State, along with the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, have seen an above-average increase in tuition since 2003, according to a report by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
With student debt over $1.3 trillion nationwide, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown says concerns for an affordable education have never been higher. In 2003, the Texas Legislature shifted its role in setting tuition fees to the universities themselves. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said this was because of revenue shortfalls and anti-investment attitudes.
“You’re forestalling your life as an adult when you have that much debt coming out at age 22, 23,” Schwertner said. “It’s wrong for that student, it’s wrong for families that have to bear that burden and it’s wrong for the economy of Texas and the economy of this nation that we’re not addressing this problem.”
During the 2008-2009 academic year, the cost of tuition and fees for a full-time undergraduate resident student at Texas State was $3,497. In the 2014-15 school year, the amount increased to $4,758.20, according to the Student Business Services website.
Eric Algoe, vice president of finance and support services, said the main reason tuition has consistently increased is due to dwindling state funds. In the past five years, percentage increases have not spiked at Texas State, Algoe said.
He said appropriations such as income taxes, property taxes and corporate taxes have been steadily decreasing across the country for the past decade. As funds diminish, schools have to find a way to compensate.
“I think when most people hear about tuition increases, the assumption is that we’re on a spending spree,” Algoe said. “And (they think the) reason we need more money is because we spend more.”
Algoe said universities have to consider inflation, as goods and services will cost more next year than they did the previous year. The decision between cutting back on services for students or offsetting losses with increased tuition is not always an easy one to make.
This generation has seen increases in tuition because the general taxpaying population is paying less while students pay more, Algoe said.
Multiple factors can account for why one university may have a higher tuition increase than others. Algoe said the growth or shrinkage of a student population is a driving force, as well as whether or not the school is trying to achieve a higher research status. It can also depend on other funding channels.
Texas lawmakers are trying to come together and give tuition-setting authority back to the legislature.
“This is one issue it appears has united many Democrats and Republicans,” Ellis stated in an email. “Tuition deregulation has backfired, and now we have seen the cost of public higher education more than double since 2003.”
Ellis introduced Senate Bill 255 in the last legislative session, which he said would have capped tuition at the amount charged during the 2015-2016 school year and returned regulatory authority to set tuition rates to the legislature.
“I wanted a common-sense way to slow down the incredible growth in tuition over the past 13 years,” he said.
Schwertner also introduced a bill that would keep tuition increases in check. The bill would have allowed tuition and fees to increase only at the rate of inflation and it would have given students some certainty. Both senators’ bills failed.
“It can be changed. It should be changed,” Schwertner said. “And I’m going to keep fighting for it.”