Senate Refuses to Accept Responsibility and Regulate College Tuition

(Austin, Texas)—By a vote of 16-15, the Texas Senate today voted to table an amendment by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) to SB 1851 which would have eliminated tuition deregulation by 2013. The amendment would have rolled back the power the legislature deferred to Texas public colleges and universities in 2003 unless re-enacted by the legislature next session.

A similar amendment to SB 1228 passed the Senate 28-3 in 2005.

“I am very disappointed that the Senate has reversed course on this important issue,” said Ellis. “Six years ago we overwhelmingly decided the legislature had abdicated its responsibility and let tuition soar out of control. The Senate today said ‘that’s ok.’ Now more Texas families will struggle to meet the skyrocketing costs of college.”

The Ellis amendment would have tasked the new Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence, and Transparency to review tuition deregulation and make recommendations to the legislature for its continuance or repeal. The report is due January 1, 2013. If the legislature did not pass new legislation in the 83rd Legislative Session, on September 1, 2013 tuition would be re-regulated and the burden of tuition decisions returned to legislature.

According to Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board data, since tuition deregulation was passed in 2003, overall designated tuition has increased 156 percent. The percentage increase at select Texas universities is even higher. Since fall 2003, tuition at the University of Texas at Austin has increased 230 percent; tuition at the University of Texas at Dallas has increased 219 percent; tuition at Texas Tech University and the University of Houston has increased 178 percent; and tuition at Texas A&M University and increased 165 percent.

“Eight years ago, this legislature did not want to make tough decisions on tuition and, instead, passed the buck to the schools. We’ve spent years blaming them for doing what they had to do to keep their schools running. It is time to put the horse back in the barn and require the legislature to do its job funding Texas universities.

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