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UT Regents Commended for Standing Up to Powers Print E-mail
by Will Lutz    Fri, May 11, 2012, 10:02 AM

"Let’s be clear, there is no need for a tuition increase ..."

May 2, 2012 is a historic day for the University of Texas. For decades, University of Texas regents blindly followed the University of Texas at Austin president, no matter where he led, viewing their role largely as either honorary or as fundraisers.

For the first time in at least two decades, the regents said no, publicly rejecting a 2.5 percent tuition increase proposed by President William Powers, Jr. In so doing, the regents said yes to Rick Perry – the elected governor of Texas – and yes to the idea that regents should manage state universities in the interest of the taxpayers, parents, and voters of Texas

Let’s be clear, there is no need for a tuition increase, and when the economy is in a deep recession is the wrong time to talk about raising taxes and fees. Perry correctly advised regents not to raise fees but instead to make better use of the monies universities already have.

And those resources are substantial. Since 2003, Texas provided more money to universities and university research when other states cut back. Let’s compare what’s going on at Texas to a university to which UT-Austin aspires, the University of California – Berkeley.

A rare bout of common sense afflicted Sacramento last year, and California lawmakers cut $70 million from the University of California – Berkeley’s budget. According to a speech by Berkeley’s chancellor, the total state support received by Berkeley in 2011-12 amounts to $230 million. According to the University of California Office of the President, Berkeley’s estimated enrollment that year is 35,466, yielding a per-student support level of $6,485.

By contrast, Texas lawmakers appropriated $247,397,392 in state general revenue to the University of Texas at Austin. In addition, according to the Legislative Budget Board’s Fiscal Size-Up, $258.9 million is set aside from the Available University Fund (proceeds from an endowment created by oil and gas royalties on state lands) for university excellence.

Two-thirds of that is allocated to the University of Texas at Austin, for an annual total of $86.3 million, yielding a total state support for UT-Austin of $333.7 million in Fiscal Year 2012. According to the Higher Education Coordinating Board, UT –Austin has enrolled 51,112 in the fall of 2011. That means UT-Austin’s per-student support is $6529.

This means UT-Austin is getting $6529 from the State of Texas, while Berkeley is getting $6485. There’s plenty of money there to fund the core teaching mission of the university, particularly if college faculty had to teach more than two classes per semester.
When confronted with statistics like this, UT has a litany of excuses. Some of UT’s general revenue budget was dedicated to research by a 2003 bill that the UT administration supported and campaigned for. Berkeley does charge higher tuition. (Is it bad that our universities are more affordable?) Of course, UT administrators won’t mention in this litany that Austin’s cost of living is substantially lower than the San Francisco Bay Area. Bottom line – Texas legislators have been generous, perhaps too generous, with higher education in the past decade.

The UT Regents’ display of fiscal prudence was even more remarkable in light of the intimidation campaign conducted by some liberal legislators, a PR firm, and various UT-Austin boosters. In particular, Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) abused the Joint Select Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence, and Transparency as a forum to attack Governor Perry, his appointees, and his conservative policies. Regents were threatened in public hearings with subpoenas, and the governor’s philosophies and the regents themselves became the subject of regular and repeated cheap-shots.

But the regents stood up to the intimidation campaign and honored the conservative values of Texas voters and the governor who appointed them. In the short run, the regents turned down a two-year tuition increase. But in so doing, they made giant strides toward restoring fiscal accountability and responsibility at universities nationwide.

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Comments (4)add comment
written by Milan Moravec , May 11, 2012

University of California Berkeley Chancellor Provost prefer to charge higher tuition to Californians: block middle income applicants. . UCB Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau is outspoken on why elite public universities, like Cal, should charge Californians more. With Birgeneau’s leadership UCB is more expensive (on an all-in-cost) than private Harvard and Yale. Chancellor Birgeneau’s ‘charge more’ tuition make Cal. the most expensive public higher education in our country!

Birgeneau ($450,000 salary) likes to blame the politicians, since they stopped giving him every dollar expected. The Chancellor’s ‘charge more’ instate tuition skyrocketed fees by an average 14% per year from 2006 to 2011-12 academic year. If Birgeneau had allowed fees to rise at the same rate of inflation over the past 10 years they would still be in reach of most middle income students. Increasing funding is not Cal’s solution.

As a public university UCB is to maximize access to the widest number of instate students at a reasonable cost with a mission of diversity and equality of opportunity. Unfortunately Birgeneau’s ‘charge more’ tuition to Californians diminishes the equality and inclusion principles which underlie our state and country. Birgeneau’s and Provost George Breslauer’s ($306,000 salary) ‘charge more’ instate tuition denies middle income Californians the transformative value of Cal’s education.

Chancellor Birgeneau’s tenure is a sad unacceptable legacy.
Opinion to: UC Board of Regents This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it and Calif. State Senators and Assembly members.

written by UT Alum , May 11, 2012

Lutz, you ignorant slut. Bill Powers is to be commended for standing up to Rick Perry (no friend to higher education) and the pack of tools he had appointed to the Board of Regents. Speaking as a life-long conservative rebublican, Perry is an embarrassment to conservatives, the Republican party and the State of Texas. His disastrous presidential campaign only served to prove that. Perry needs to keep his hands off UT. There are a lot of Republicans who have tolerated Perry so far but won't continue to do so if he keeps this up.

written by David , May 15, 2012

What a bunch of crap. They raised tuition at all the system schools except UT-Austin.

They have no interest in saving kids money.

Stop spreading lies of anti-intellectuals from the TPPF and "Americans for Prosperity"

written by Paul Perry , May 21, 2012

Regardless of all the T-sip inside baseball in this strand, the fact is all the Universities in Texas should freeze tuition and all other fees for a few years.
Most have raised tuition plenty over the last ten. If they have squandered money all the phds in administrative overhead should take a pay-cut for starters.

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