The University of Texas System Board of Regents on Wednesday approved its institutions increasing tuition and nonacademic mandatory fees by up to 5.2% for graduate and nonresident state undergraduate students for the upcoming academic year.
UT System leaders had recommended the board approve a cap on increases that did not exceed Commonfund's 2022 Higher Education Price Index of 5.2%. The inflation index, which is published by an asset management firm, is designed to track the main cost drivers in higher education.
The approved increase, however, will not apply to undergraduate in-state students at any of the system's eight academic institutions, including UT-Austin.
"We are aware that the inflationary environment is hitting everyone, and we have an obligation to continue to provide world-class, affordable higher education opportunities," UT System Chancellor James Milliken said during the meeting. "We are fully committed to controlling the costs for our students."
UT-Austin spokesperson Brian Davis said the school will be increasing tuition for nonresident undergraduates by 5% during the next academic year, but tuition for graduate students and in-state undergraduates will not increase.
Davis said UT-Austin's nonresident tuition rates are still lower than those of several of its peer public universities even after the increase. About 10% of UT's undergraduates are from out of state, according to school data.
“Since the 2021-22 academic year, UT-Austin’s costs have increased due to inflation and other factors," Davis said in a statement. "However, tuition rates have remained flat. This marks the first UT-Austin increase — of any kind — implemented since then.”
The UT System regents last considered a tuition increase in November 2019, when they approved a 2.6% increase for undergraduate students over the following two academic years at all system campuses consistent with the higher education inflation rate.
Milliken and five other university system chancellors in December sent a letter in to the state’s top leaders promising to enact a two-year freeze on resident undergraduate tuition at all academic institutions within each system in exchange for nearly $1 billion for additional formula funding, employee health insurance and other items.
They also said they would freeze mandatory academic fees, all academic-related general fees and college course fees for resident undergraduate students if the state agreed to the funding request. The Legislature, however, has not yet approved the state budget, and it's unclear whether lawmakers will provide the additional funding.
'Focus on recruiting top students'
Before the tuition vote Thursday, Neel Mutyala, a UT System student regent and nonvoting board member, asked campus presidents to "take a very close look" at improving graduate student stipends because he said they are important for recruiting future students and to help current graduate students pay tuition.
Underpaid at UT, a coalition of UT-Austin graduate student workers, asked the school last year to increase the minimum yearly graduate student stipend to $36,317, along with implementing yearly cost-of-living pay increases and other requests, due to the financial difficulties that they say graduate student workers are facing.
In a response to the request last week, UT-Austin Provost Sharon Wood and Graduate School Dean Mark J. T. Smith said in a letter that the school strives to offer resources and support that is comparable to other top research universities. However, they didn't say if they would increase the minimum graduate student stipends or provide cost of living pay adjustments.
Wood and Smith wrote in the letter that the school provides merit increases and market salary adjustments for some employees, but it does not provide annual cost-of-living adjustments. The university also has provided additional money to help supplement funding for teaching assistants and assistant instructors over the past two years, they said.
"We will continue to focus on recruiting top students and positioning them to have the greatest opportunities for success and impact after their time at the University," the letter said. "We recognize that increases in resources offered by competing programs and changes in the costs of living in Austin lead us to consider ways we might further improve our support packages."
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: UT System board OKs tuition, fee increases for some students