Editor's Note: President Gretchen M. Bataille wrote an op-ed on the tuition rollback for The Dallas Morning News. The following ran in the newspaper's July 5 edition and is posted here by permission from that newspaper.
As a student-centered public research university, the University of North Texas understands that one of its most important charges is to provide – and protect – accessible higher education for all students.
We are doing just that.
For the 2007-08 academic year, we are rolling back our tuition increase as one of many initiatives aimed at demonstrating UNT's commitment to stand out as a student-centered university. With this action, we are honoring that promise and living up to our values – as an institution that offers the highest-quality affordable education.
On June 29, our UNT System Board of Regents took a significant step toward accessible and affordable education when voting, 8-0, to cut $4 per semester credit hour from the $8 per semester hour board-designated tuition increase approved in February, when it was projected that UNT would need that $8 increase to generate $5.2 million per year for necessary university operations.
At that time, our regents pledged to reduce the tuition increase by $1 per semester hour for every $640,000 above preliminary expectations of what the Legislature would allocate to UNT for operations. Texas lawmakers appropriated – and Gov. Rick Perry signed into law – an additional $2.56 million for UNT's general revenue budget.
Under the newly approved rate, beginning in fall 2007, full-time students will pay $3,136.10 for tuition and mandatory fees when they register for 15 hours. This leaves UNT with a 1.98 percent board-designated tuition increase that compares favorably with 2007-08 increases announced at other Texas universities. At the University of Texas at Arlington, for example, tuition increased 12 percent to $3,597 for 15 hours. And at UT-Dallas, the jump was 9 percent to $4,012 for 15 hours.
UNT is committed to continuing to provide students with quality education. But public education is no longer financed the way it once was: In previous years, higher education in Texas received a larger percentage of its operating budget from state appropriations. By 2005, that percentage had dropped significantly. As a result, every public university has had to find other ways to meet its financial requirements.
At the same time, public institutions have had to balance the needs of students, who must not be priced out of their higher- education goals. It is very clear to students and their families that as state support has declined, families have had to step in.
We have recently instituted several new programs to help UNT students with tuition costs:
- Our new Emerald Eagle Scholars program, which was created this spring through an endowment of more than $350,000 and was combined with other university money, will cover tuition and mandatory fees for about 400 incoming freshmen, who will arrive in fall 2007 from households with adjusted family incomes that do not exceed $40,000 per year.
- UNT's Timely Graduation Tuition Program allows full-time undergraduate students (those taking 12 hours or more) to pay the same amount for university tuition (except that students must still pay the state-mandated $50 per semester credit hour) and fees in a fall or spring semester, regardless of how many hours they take. This flat rate above 12 hours will encourage our students to graduate in four years, so they can keep costs down and enter the workforce sooner.
- Three new funding programs, beginning in fall 2007, will provide some tuition support for all UNT graduate students who meet basic qualifications.
We will continue to look for new ways to provide affordable access to the many talented students who need financial help to achieve their higher-education goals. Our aim is to give students every possible opportunity to achieve the education they need to make a difference for themselves, their families, their communities and our world.
Dr. Gretchen M. Bataille is president of the University of North Texas.
Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.