Texas Senate to consider tuition bills

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Tuition prices for Texas universities may increase by Sept. 1, 2003 if the Texas State Legislature passes two bills relating to the funding of public institutions.

Sen. Steve Ogden introduced Senate Bill 1485 and Senate Bill 1486 on March 20 for the purpose of offering universities another way to work around budget constrictions.

If each bill receives a two-thirds vote from all the members elected to each house, they will take effect Sept. 1.

Helena Banks, SHSU Student Government Association president said before tuition deregulation will take effect at Sam Houston State University it must go through the Texas State University System Board of Regents, which will not meet until after Sept. 1.

“As far as I am concerned, right now I don’t see anything that says our fees are going to increase from what we have here,” Banks said. “Our Board of Regents would have to approve a fee increase and right now I am not seeing that in our Board of Regents book.”

Ogden was unavailable to comment on the issue and his press secretary was also unavailable for comment.

“(The bills) give (universities) a little more leeway in what they can and can’t charge for school,” Banks said. “They are trying to give (universities) more options to charge more money. We are students; we are against raising fees and that is all there is to it.”

Senate Bill 1485 would simplify the tuition and fee structure for public institutions of higher education, and create three categories of changes.

The first change is for tuition, which is set by the Legislature. The second change is essential student education fees, which is set by the Board of Regents. The third change is discretionary student service fees, which are approved by students.

Senate Bill 1485 also proposes that intercollegiate athletics may not be funded by revenue from student charges other than discretionary student fees that must be voted on by the students separately from other fees.

The two bills go hand and hand; however Senate Bill 1486 proposes to deregulate out of state tuition and would allow summer school tuition to be set by the Board of Regents above the minimum.

“The main problem with that is if they deregulate completely people are going to pay absurd amounts of money to get (a typical) undergraduate degree,” Banks said.

The bill would give full deregulation, but universities would not be able to receive formula funding also.

“We are in a budget crisis and everyone is saying don’t raise fees, don’t raise tuition, well we are in a budget crisis and our state is trying to find $13 billion and someone is going to have to pick up the slack for where this money is coming from and unfortunately a lot of times higher education gets the short end of this stick and that is just how it is,” Banks said.

The SGA went to Austin on April 29 to lobby against various issues, one of which was the deregulation of tuition.

“University and students are totally different,” Banks said. “It helps the university because they can charge us more, but it doesn’t help the students because they are going to charge us more.”

Banks said she is against tuition deregulation, but sometimes there comes a point when fees will have to be raised.

Money will have to be cut from somewhere and people look at college students in higher education and feel that it is a privilege to go to college and not a right, she said.

” If you want to be able to compete in this world you have to pay for it and that is the way they feel,” Banks said. “When it comes time to find money, (they say) take it away from higher education.”

Senate Bill 1485 and Senate Bill 1486 were referred to the Education Committee and have not been posted for a hearing. As a result, the two bills are not moving in the Legislature as of now.