In recent years the cost of higher education has skyrocketed exponentially, pricing more and more Texans out of many college options as administrators rampantly raise tuition and fees. In an effort to control the issue, State Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) has taken the lead on an issue that has widespread support—freezing tuition increases.
Last week, he launched a website to gather support for his bill, SB 233, an item of legislation that would do just that.
“I’m launching TexasTuitionFreeze.com to put a face on this effort and give a voice to the thousands of parents and students who continue to struggle with the skyrocketing cost of college tuition and fees,” said Schwertner. “I know this will be an uphill battle, but I’m confident we can be successful if Texans from across the state join together and make their voices heard.”
According to a 2012 report by the Texas State Comptroller, tuition rates increased nearly twice as fast as enrollment growth and inflation. As an aside, state appropriations also grew disproportionately.
Under Schwertner’s plan, tuition and fees at the state’s public colleges and universities would be capped at their current levels and only be permitted to grow at the rate of inflation as determined by the Legislative Budget Board. The plan also institutes a requirement that any institution wishing to increase tuition beyond that rate must receive approval via majority vote by the student body.
Currently most proposals to “fix” the problem of perennial and ever increasing costs have been to solely increase the amount that students can borrow, a naive idea that, similar to increasing the debt ceiling in Washington, doesn’t work to control costs. In fact, it subsidizes the increases with even more taxpayer money.
“This broken system is leaving an entire generation of students mired in debt and frustrated by a lack of opportunity while supplying universities with extravagant budgets to fund special projects and ever-expanding administrations,” said Schwertner.
In addition to the plan to freeze tuition, Schwertner filed Senate Bill 232, which would create state sales tax exemptions for college textbook purchases for a limited time at the beginning of each semester.
As with all government institutions, limits are absolutely vital. In the case of tuition for Texas’ public universities, haphazardly removing limits without alternative safeguards has been a costly experiment for students and taxpayers. Sen. Schwertner’s proposals are a significant step in the right direction for higher education in Texas.