Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Soapbox

T-Sippers Need More Cake
By Joe Shehan

The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday that the University of Texas was going to be increasing tuition by as much as 22% over the next two years. In a day and age where it is getting less expensive to own a home than it is to send your kids to college for four years, I am surprised that an institution of higher learning would seek to make it more difficult for students to afford classes.

Since 2003 (the year they de-regulated college cost in Texas), the cost of higher education has risen almost 100%. When I first attended college in 1998, the University of Texas (then and still the most expensive state school in Texas) cost approximately $11,000 a year. Today, the proposed cost increase will lead the cost of a state education at UT to be $22,000 a year. For many already at risk of not being able to go to college, this creates one more hurdle to overcome. But do schools like UT need to raise their costs? Let’s see.

The University of Texas shares a universal college endowment called the Permanent University Fund (PUF) which has over $11.6 Billion (4th largest in the country), of which 30% is the University of Texas’ share ($3.4B). In 2005, they received over $446 million in funding for research, $417 awards and grants, $5 million in licensing revenue from patents owned by UT, and they received $2 Billion in private endowments. The University of Texas has 2,271 faculty and staff, of which 1,000 positions are privately funded. They also have 40, $1 million (Privately funded) chairs. In total, UT receives approximately $6.4 Billion dollars in endowment and private funding each year. This does not include revenue brought in through student fees and tuition, which equals approximately $1.1 Billion a year.

Now looking at the total amount of money the UT system has at its disposal, one has to ask, what do they need to raise tuition for? I do not know all of UT’s overhead, but surely it doesn’t exceed $6.4Billion, especially if you take into consideration that the students should be paying for their costs and then some. So, why is UT raising their tuition? According to Kevin Hegarty, UT’s CFO, the price hikes are “directly related to the lack of adequate state funding for basic needs.” I guess $6.4 Billion in private funding, $1.1 Billion in tuition, and the lion’s share of a $2.5 Billion dollar Texas State School Budget is just not enough for the University to get by. Perhaps the problem is not in the lack of funding, but perhaps in Mr. Hagerty doing his job to ensure that the University is using their money wisely.

College is expensive, and it should be. It should be expensive to keep those who do not take education seriously out of the halls of learning; however, it should not be so expensive that only the elite and privileged in this country can afford to go. I do not believe the answer to curbing college costs is re-regulation, but neither is de-regulation an excuse to drive up the cost.

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