A semester of change
Tuition and admission standards increase as enrollment nears record
Generating revenue to strengthen the University’s academic programs is the overriding goal of the higher tuition that students began paying this spring.
“To maintain excellent programs and services, we were forced to find a mechanism to partially offset the funding that the state is no longer contributing,” said Dana Dunn, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We turned to students to ask them to pay somewhat higher tuition.”
In November, the U.T. System Board of Regents approved tuition increases for its nine universities and five medical schools. At UTA, students this spring are paying an additional $10 per semester credit hour (SCH). In the fall, tuition will increase by another $17 per SCH.
Students receive a $3-per-SCH discount if they pay on time. Another feature is a pilot program whereby nursing students pay an additional $10 per SCH for upper-division and graduate courses and engineering students pay an additional $10 per SCH for upper-division courses and $20 per SCH for graduate courses.
“Even with the increase, the cost of attending UTA is still affordable based on the national average,” Dr. Dunn said. “When you consider the value of a college degree in terms of its impact on earnings, it’s clear that tuition is a very worthwhile investment.”
Nationally, the College Board reports that tuition at four-year public universities surged 14 percent last fall. That increase follows a nearly 10 percent jump the previous year.
To help ease the financial burden, UTA’s plan sets aside funds to meet the growing needs of students currently receiving financial aid and the needs of those who will qualify for aid for the first time because of the tuition hikes.
In June, Texas lawmakers approved cuts in state funding for higher education. To offset the losses, legislators agreed to let university governing boards set their own tuition rates. The U.T. System formed a commission to oversee the tuition proposals of its institutions, and each component then formed its own committee to tailor a plan to meet its specific needs.
Ten of the 18 members of UTA’s Tuition Review Committee were students, including the chairman, Student Congress President Josh Warren. Many of the students’ recommendations were incorporated into the proposal that went to the regents.
“The consultation process UTA engaged in was impressive,” Warren said. “Over the years in discussions with students and student leaders from universities across the state, I’ve come to realize that UTA is one of the most inclusive universities when it comes to involving students in the decision-making process, and the tuition-setting process was no exception.”
Revenue generated from the tuition increase will provide increased debt service, fund modest faculty and staff salary increases, and hire new faculty.
“More faculty are needed to keep class sizes manageable and to meet the faculty-student ratios required by our accrediting agencies,” Dunn said. “I’m confident the plan will produce the revenue necessary to provide the faculty and facilities that are crucial to maintaining academic excellence.”
The new faculty will help teach UTA’s growing student population. Enrollment climbed to 24,979 last fall, only 156 shy of the all-time high of 25,135 in 1991. The 4.9 percent increase marks the 14th consecutive semester of enrollment gains.
Students seeking to enroll at UTA in the fall will face tougher admission standards. In November, the Board of Regents approved the University’s proposal to modestly increase test scores for entering freshmen and freshman transfers.
The new standards require students who graduate in the second quarter of their high school class to score at least 1,050 on the SAT, a 100-point increase over current requirements. Students who graduate in the third quarter must have an SAT score of at least 1,150, a 150-point increase.
Applications from high school students graduating in the bottom quarter of their class must be reviewed individually. Currently, these students must score 1,150 on the SAT.
Higher admission standards have several potential benefits, says Dale Wasson, UTA’s associate vice president for student enrollment services.
“It communicates to those off campus that the University is raising the bar and increasing its expectations of students wishing to attend,” he said. “It also communicates to the faculty that the institution is interested in advancing quality over quantity.”
Even with the stricter requirements, Dr. Wasson said UTA is still committed to affordable education, public access and closing the gaps in higher education.
— Mark Permenter