Students and families from Texas may soon receive some relief from the ever rising costs of a college education. Senator Kel Seliger, a Republican from Amarillo and the chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, proposed several bills last week aimed at reducing the cost of a four-year degree.
Under the three bills, tuition and fee increases would be suspended until 2022 and schools would have to achieve certain benchmarks to get permission to raise tuition and associated fees. In addition, the bills call for the repeal of the Tuition Set-Aside program in Texas in which public universities and colleges have to put aside as much as 20 percent of revenue from tuition to provide aid to low-income students.
According to a report in The Dallas Morning News, the bills that would freeze tuition and fees and repeal the Tuition Set-Aside program are getting a lot of interest from Lt. Governor Dan Patrick while the bill that would require schools to reach certain benchmarks isn’t a top priority.
Seliger told The Dallas Morning News that the Texas government has the opportunity to “implement a long-term tuition reform solution which holds institutions accountable and ensures they remain accessible and affordable.”
The Senator noted in a prepared statement to the paper that the focus of tuition reform should be on how to make college more affordable and accessible instead of how the state can get students to plunk down more money for a four-year degree.
While most families in Texas will applaud any moves that make college more affordable, the proposal to do away with the set-aside rule could negatively impact poor students who rely on government aid to attend a state university or college.
The Dallas Morning News found that more than 120,000 students in low and middle income brackets took advantage of the aid in 2014. Some universities told the paper they would maintain their set-asides even if the state doesn’t mandate it. But getting rid of it on a state basis will introduce a level of uncertainty for students who need the aid to attend college.
Seliger argued that if the schools didn’t have to set aside up to 20 percent of the tuition revenue they could slash the cost of tuition by as high as 20 percent.
Compared to the rest of the nation, Texas’ borrowers who graduated in the Class of 2015 aren’t doing so bad in terms of average student debt. At graduation, they owed $26,825 on average, as compared to $28,400 nationally. This doesn’t mean lawmakers shouldn’t do more to help out their graduates, however, and it is nice to see them trying to make a difference.
Author: Dave Rathmanner
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