May 24, 2014

UT Arlington to offer fixed-rate tuition plans

The goal is for students to commit to earning their degrees in four years and save some cash along the way.

Students for the first time can lock in what they would pay for a four-year undergraduate degree at the University of Texas at Arlington — and save $1,000 to boot.

UT Arlington’s Guaranteed Tuition Plan plan was approved by the University of Texas System Board of Regents last week. Incoming freshman and transfer students can sign up for the fixed-rate tuition plans by Aug. 1.

Under the plan, students would lock in a $5,018 per semester tuition price in anticipation that, over the next four years, the current $4,646 a semester charge will increase beyond the slightly higher price.

And for students who may be reluctant to take that gamble, UT Arlington’s guaranteed plan tries to soften the blow by offering a series of rebates that could save students at least $1,024 over four years.

“We are hoping that by providing an incentive and reward to our students, we can bring the cost down and help them complete in four years,” UT Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari told regents when he presented the university’s plan to them May 14 in Austin.

Here is how the plan works. Graduate students need not apply.

Students who agree to pay $10,036 a year will be eligible for rebates as long as they maintain 2.5 grade-point averages and complete 30 credit hours each academic year, which can include summer classes.

Every year that a student completes 30 hours, he or she will get $1,000 credited toward tuition the following fall. If the student is able to make it to his or her senior year with 90 credit hours and a 2.5 GPA, the student will get an extra $2,000, for a total of $3,000.

Students that fail to meet the requirements in the first year would lose their first rebate, and have to get up to speed quickly to earn the rest. With all the rebates in tow, four-year tuition to UT Arlington would cost $36,144 on the guaranteed plan.

Undergraduate tuition for full-time students will remain at $4,646 a semester for those who elect to pay the regular rate. Regular four-year tuition would cost $37,168, assuming there are no tuition increases in the next cycle. The UT System typically considers tuition proposals every two years, said university spokeswoman Kristin Sullivan.

At the same UT System meeting last Tuesday, regents approved fixed-rate tuition for six of UT’s campuses and voted against tuition increases for in-state students following Gov. Rick Perry’s plea to not raise tuition.

The Texas Legislature required all public universities to offer student-optional fixed-rate plans in 2013. Each university submits a proposal on how they want to carry that out.

The university predicts that 3,300-4,400 students will elect to join the plan each year, according to a proposal submitted to the UT System. The goal is for UT Arlington to have the application deadline set at early August of each year to coincide with financial aid and university awards.

UT Arlington has not increased undergraduate tuition since fall 2011 and was seeking a 2.9 percent increase from the regents this year to go toward student success initiatives.

Instead, UT System regents approved a motion to direct Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and Scott Kelley, executive vice chancellor for business affairs, to explore ways the UT System can help offset financial strains on its campuses through appropriations from the Available University Fund — an endowment shared by UT Austin and Texas A&M University.

UT Austin is the only UT System institution that can receive Available University Fund money for operations, but the system can use the funds to help other campuses in certain circumstances.

“Our executive vice chancellor is working all summer to identify ways the Available University Fund can offset tuition increases,” UT System spokeswoman Karen Adler said. “Hopefully, by the end of the summer we’ll be able to provide details about that.”

Kelley will spend the next two months exploring ways the Available University Fund can be used for capital projects and contracts at its campuses to make up for the money the schools would have made through tuition increases.

Cigarroa and Kelley will come back to the regents with a plan to offset tuition increases in August, she said.

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