New high school turfExcited members of the Paschal High School family celebrated their new turf field Thursday night with freshman football and a balloon launch. Many years of frustration, fundraising and partnership-building had come to fruition.A Facebook posting afterward said, "This is much more than a new turf field. This is bringing back the PRIDE in our students and believing in our children." (www.facebook.com/PaschalHighSchoolLegacy)Arlington Heights High School started using its new field Sept. 21.Both were made possible when the Fort Worth school board agreed in June to allocate $1.4 million of noninstructional funds to purchase the synthetic surfacing and let booster groups reimburse the district for that cost.The fields will be used for practices by football, soccer and lacrosse teams; games for freshman and middle school football, varsity and JV soccer and lacrosse; and marching band practices. Paschal, with almost 2,500 students, is the Fort Worth district's only Class 5A school; Heights, with enrollment nearing 1,600, is classified 4A.Paschal boosters have been raising funds for athletics upgrades for several years through the Paschal Legacy Project. They've charted their progress online at phslegacy.com, which shows that $783,000 has been raised in cash and pledges for the field. The group's Facebook page says 228 families and seven foundations have contributed or pledged money, some to be paid over multiple years.Paschal boosters had paid the district $200,000 as of Sept. 25, with plans to have half the field's cost paid by May, according to a district spokesman.Arlington Heights boosters, whose fundraising efforts haven't been as publicly documented, had paid $100,000 by this week, with expectations to pay $350,000 by December.Pledge agreements that both booster groups signed give them until Sept. 30, 2017, to pay the district the full project costs: $704,878 for Paschal and $713,332 for Heights.It doesn't appear that either repayment will take that long. But the value of these investments should last much longer.Tuition relief neededTuition and fees at Texas public universities have skyrocketed since 2003, when the Legislature, rather than adequately funding higher education, allowed public universities to set their own rates.Each year since, with less money coming from the state, most universities have found it necessary to raise tuition, putting a strain on students and their families, many of whom have to go further into debt to pay for that college education.For example, at the University of Texas at Austin, tuition and fees for 2004-05 were $5,735 for residents and $13,634 for nonresidents, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. For this school year, UT-Austin says its in-state rates are $9,346 to $10,738, and out-of-state students pay $31,756 to $36,396.Last week Gov. Rick Perry, noting the rising costs and the amount of indebtedness for some students, proposed a plan under which freshman students would lock in tuition rates for four years. He suggested the issue could be taken up by the Legislature in January.While freezing students' tuition for four years would be beneficial to them and their families and might serve as an incentive for individuals to graduate on time, it does not address the funding shortfall for public universities.As UT President Bill Powers said Thursday, the state should "show its commitment by providing predictable revenue streams for the same four years."The governor and the Legislature must look for ways to fund Texas universities sufficiently.If they did that, perhaps we could keep down the cost to students -- and improve their education as well.