Proposed tuition freeze for state universities

February 11, 2011 4:19:44 PM PST
It's important news for college students and parents. It's no secret that higher learning isn't cheap and tuition rates have been steadily rising. But there's a new call for state universities to finally do something about it.

The University of Houston already laid off 100 employees in 2009 in anticipation of future budget cuts and there could be more layoffs to come. That's just to cope with fewer state dollars, but taking the price of a degree down to $10,000 all-in is a long way from reality.

For U of H student Caleb Rogers getting his degree in creative writing means finding every dollar he can to pay for it.

"I completely depend on scholarships, so I'd have to start taking out a lot of loans if they increased tuition costs. And that would really help me in the future," said Rogers.

At his State of the State speech, Governor Rick Perry suggested that state institutions like the U of H slash their tuition costs and freeze the cost over four years.

"I'm challenging our institutions of higher education to develop bachelor's degrees that cost no more than $10,000, including textbooks," Gov. Perry said.

That sounds great to students like Rogers.

"My mom's still paying her student loans. I'm looking forward to doing that," Rogers said.

But because of the state's massive budget shortfall, that suggestion comes at the same time the university is going to see a 16 to 20 percent reduction in state funds -- cuts of between $54 and $65 million over the next two years.

U of H Senior Vice President and Provost John Antel says it's a tough pill to swallow.

"It's still a lot of uncertainty about just how far we're going to be able to go on this," Antel said.

But he promises the university's recent move to Tier One status must be protected.

"Particularly if we can really adeptly use technology and we can also be able to raise more money, getting more outside funded research, raise more money from our comprehensive campaign fund raising," Antel said.

The university is looking at alternative ways to reduce costs to address both issues. It expects to see more 2-year community college transfer options, and more virtual classroom learning and DVD lectures to offset operating costs and the cost to students.

The U of H says it is hard to predict exactly what will happen on its campuses since the legislature will have to approve proposed cuts during this legislative session.