ARLINGTON -- Unprecedented enrollment growth and new sources of revenue have positioned the University of Texas at Arlington for a rarity: no increase in tuition and fees for the first time in a decade.
UT Arlington President James Spaniolo unveiled a proposal Tuesday to hold the line on tuition, fees and room and board at university-owned housing for at least 2012-13.
His proposal would seek authority from the University of Texas System board of regents to raise tuition in 2013-14 if necessary, though regents have capped any hikes at 2.6 percent for undergraduates and 3.6 percent for graduate students.
Fall 2011 enrollment climbed to an all-time high of 33,439, up 34 percent in five years. Additional students mean more revenue, even though this year's state budget woes cost UT Arlington $10 million in funding.
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A hiring freeze, a voluntary separation program for qualified employees and other belt-tightening measures helped position UTA for deeper cuts than occurred, officials said.
Student Congress President Jennifer Fox, who chairs a campus committee that first heard the proposal, said students on the panel were initially concerned that a tuition freeze might harm their quality of education.
"We asked lots of questions," she said. "But they were very reassuring that they would not propose this if they weren't going to maintain the same level of services."
UT Arlington leaders said that in developing the proposal, they were mindful of the ever-increasing cost of higher education and its effect on families. A recent survey indicated that almost three-fourths of UT Arlington students hold at least one job while attending school. Two-thirds of UT Arlington students receive financial aid.
"We're looking at what's in the best interest of our students and our faculty and staff that will also let us continue our core mission and our Tier One objective," Provost Ron Elsenbaumer said.
Student leaders will sponsor forums to get feedback, and the committee will meet again in late November to vote on the proposal. The university will send its final plan to Austin in mid-December, and regents will make a final decision in the spring.
University leaders are working to add to UTA's endowment, and the university continues to receive natural gas royalties, which have been used to support scholarships and develop faculty. The new mixed-use College Park District development, meanwhile, is expected to generate income through student housing, retail and parking, as well as through ticket sales and concessions at College Park Center.
Tuition and fees for 2011-12 average $9,292 for a full-time student taking 12 credit hours or more. That compares with $4,123 in 2001-02, before the Legislature deregulated tuition in 2003.
In 2001-02, the state provided $4,213 per UT Arlington student, compared with $3,394 this year. State funding has gone from 45 percent of total revenue to 21 percent in that time.
Patrick M. Walker,