COMMITTEE LOOKS AT TUITION DEREGULATION
(AUSTIN) — Texas college students are taking out more student loans and are more likely to attend community college in the face of rising university tuition, according to Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Raymund Paredes. Paredes joined the chairs of boards of regents at all Texas public university systems in testifying before a meeting of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education considering the impact of tuition deregulation in 2003 on college participation. "I would argue that the increase in cost of going to universities, which has been much steeper than the increase in cost of community college, has driven more students to select community colleges as a place to begin," he said.
Students are coping with increased tuitions in fees by taking out more loans, said Paredes. "We're now at the point where student indebtedness is reaching some very significant numbers," he said. He estimated that the average Texas public university graduate will owe between $15,000 and $16,000 dollars. This indebtedness is forcing alumni to search for higher paying jobs in order to pay off these loans, which hurts lower-paying public service fields, such as teaching.
The cost of one semester of tuition at the University of Texas at Austin, for example, has risen from $1975 in 2002 to $4012 today. UT System Chairman of the Board of Regents H. Scott Cavin testified that much of this increase is offset by new financial aid programs, so while the price of education is up for more affluent students, students from poorer backgrounds have a better opportunity of attending college. He also pointed to the fact that in spite of the tuition increase of about 25 percent across the UT system, applications and admissions have not decreased. Chairman on the University of Houston Board of Trustees Welcome Wilson said that higher tuition may force some students to attend a less expensive school within a university system. More students are enrolling at UH's cheaper Downtown Campus than the main campus, he said.
Committee members charged the universities with finding new solutions to the rising cost of tuition. "We must find other sources of revenue in order to fund higher education in the state of Texas," Senator Royce West of Dallas told the board chairmen. "It is really important for you guys to start coming up with some ideas. We can't keep taxing the students."