State’s new ‘fixed-tuition’ plans good for students and universities

03/21/2014 7:46 PM

03/21/2014 7:47 PM

Rising tuition costs at state universities and increasing indebtedness for college students are pricing many young people out of higher education. Or, if they somehow are able to attend college and graduate, they incur such a financial burden that they they spend years trying to pay off loans.

The average college-related debt for 2013 graduates was $35,200, with the bulk of that ($26,000 on average) in government loans, according to CNN.

In Texas, college tuition rose 55 percent between 2003 — when universities were allowed to set their own rates — and 2012, which is one reason the Legislature last year passed House Bill 29, requiring state universities to develop “fixed-tuition” plans that go into effect this fall.

Several schools, such as Texas A&M, the University of Houston and The University of Texas at Dallas, have adopted plans to meet the legislative mandate that tuition charged to an undergraduate would not exceed the price during the student’s first academic term. That charge would be constant for four years.

This week, the University of North Texas approved its plan for incoming full-time students, but added a twist. At UNT, students will be able to chose from two fixed-rate options: one plan that raises rates 3.9 percent a year for four years, and a second (dubbed Eagle Express) that rewards students up to $4,000 if they graduate in four years.

Entering students in the fall, under the Eagle Express plan, will see a 10 percent tuition increase at UNT, but it will be locked in for four years. If they earn their degree in that time, they get a $3,000 tuition discount for completing course work on time and some will be eligible for a $1,000 rebate from the state.

Either way, parents and students will have a better idea of what the cost of college education will be, avoiding the shock of unexpected yearly tuition hikes.

The university already is designing a marketing plan to potential students that it will roll out all over the state. Using the slogan, “Above the rest for thousands less,” UNT officials believe “fixed-tuition,” in addition to encouraging earlier graduations, also will force the university to improve academic advising and counseling.

That, too, is a good thing.

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