Texas would offer fixed four-year tuition rates in its public universities under a plan Governor Rick Perry said he’ll propose.
“It makes sense to tell incoming freshmen: Here’s what your tuition is going to be,” Perry said at a conference on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.
Texas has two of the 10 largest U.S. public universities. The University of Texas has more than 51,000 students at its flagship Austin campus, while Texas A&M University has more than 50,000 at its main campus in College Station.
Perry, 62, didn’t offer details in an interview with Evan Smith, editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune, an online news site. A similar system is in use at the UT Dallas campus. Undergraduates can lock in credit-hour rates for four years, capped at $5,796 a semester for 15 hours, according to the university’s website.
The three-term Republican governor, whose campaign for his party’s nomination for president ended in January, has pressed in recent years to hold down tuition at public colleges and universities.
He has also called for higher-education efficiencies, the creation of $10,000 bachelor degrees, expanded online teaching and a higher four-year graduation rate.
Universities should also get more use out of their facilities, Perry said. Texas A&M, his alma mater, uses its buildings only 35 to 40 percent of the time, he said.
State Senator Judith Zaffirini, a Democrat from Laredo who chairs the Higher Education Committee, said lawmakers discussed the fixed-rate idea in 2009 as a way to give students predictability.
“The downside is that the rate probably would be higher” to cover anticipated inflation and cost increases, she said after Perry’s interview.
The governor’s idea “will be carefully considered” in the legislative session that begins in January, she said.
Gary Susswein, a spokesman for UT Austin President William Powers, said he couldn’t comment on fixed-rate tuition until the proposal can be reviewed.
“We are very much in line with the goal of increasing four-year graduation rates,” Susswein said, with a target of 70 percent by 2016. “President Powers has said that ultimately that’s the best way to keep down higher education costs.”
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