It was welcome news to current and prospective students that tuition rates in the University of Texas system would not rise this year — a decision urged by Gov. Rick Perry and approved by the Board of Regents earlier this month.
That is no guarantee that costs won’t rise again soon.
But because of a state law, all public universities must offer a fixed-rate tuition option that could protect some students from future increases that add to the already high burden of obtaining a degree.
At UT Arlington, that guaranteed tuition plan could save students over $1,000 in four years if tuition remains static, and as much as $2,700 if tuition rises at an annual rate of 3 percent.
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But there’s a catch.
Undergraduates who sign up for the program pay about $700 more their first year than students who forgo the plan, but become eligible for a $1,000 rebate the following fall if they keep a C+ grade-point average and successfully complete 30 credit hours during the academic year.
The benefits compound, too. If a student successfully meets the plan criteria for three consecutive years, the rebate doubles their senior year. Students can “earn” up to $4,000 under the plan, although “total savings” are actually a bit less.
Still, an extra $1,000 in a student’s pocket upon graduation might be incentive enough to enroll in the program, but only if they intend to meet the requirements.
Full-time status is achieved by taking 12 credit hours a semester, and the guaranteed tuition program would mean an extra class in the fall and spring or two in the summer, to meet the required 30-credit total. That can be a tall order for alternative students or those who work a full or part-time job in addition to attending classes. And while maintaining a 2.5 grade-point average sounds reasonable, one bad semester could seriously set a student back.
The college years can be unpredictable. Which is why it never hurts to have options.
The fixed-rate tuition plan is a good choice for strong students who are attending full time and committed to graduating in four years or less.