In both the Texas House and Senate, the chairmen of the Higher Education committees will be working to raise tuition for Texas students and families on Wednesday.
In the House, Higher Education Committee Chairman John Zerwas (R–Richmond) will hold a hearing at 8am Wednesday on his HB 2483. Zerwas seeks to amend legislation passed just last session that guarantees that tuition at Texas public universities won’t rise during a student’s first four years. The bill appears designed to allow UT Dallas to set an alternative “maximum tuition rate” and raise student’s tuition while they work to complete their degree on time.
The guaranteed tuition plan passed last session was criticized as a divide and conquer strategy that allowed administrators to increase tuition on incoming classes while keeping current students’ tuition rates flat. The countervailing benefit was predictability for incoming students and their families. Zerwas’s legislation would provide the worst of both worlds, separating tuition rates by class while also denying students the predictability of a guaranteed rate.
Likewise, Senate Higher Education Chairman Kel Seliger (R–Amarillo) will hold a public hearing on SB 778 in his committee at 9am on Wednesday. Seliger’s bill, bizarrely, would allow universities the privilege of raising tuition if they meet a number of performance measures set by the Legislative Budget Board in consultation with the universities. The measure would allow universities to boast over meeting easily achievable performance measures as an excuse to raise tuition. Sticking students with a higher bill after they increased their performance seems like a poor reward.
Perhaps the only performance measure that might justify an increase in tuition would be for the universities to cut the average student loan debt of their graduates in half.
Legislators should ignore these two pernicious measures, and look to State Sen. Charles Schwertner for leadership. Schwertner is fighting on behalf of Texas students and their families and is proposing that the state freeze all tuition increases.