Howdy ,

You might have received correspondence on Sunday regarding the Texas A&M administration's plan to fundamentally reform tuition and fees, which will substantially increase the cost of attending Texas A&M (students will pay several hundred dollars more each semester, some seeing increases topping $800/semester). I write today to give you the opportunity to speak out against this proposed tuition increase and to provide more information about the proposed reforms.

Students and the public (including parents) are able to submit to the Board of Regents public testimony, which is considered before a vote is taken on the tuition increase; however, this testimony must be received by the regents by 8:30 am on Wednesday morning.  This means that you have to act now if you want your voice to be heard.

I've made it easy for you to take action.  Click here to send written testimony to the Board of Regents requesting them to vote against the tuition increase and instead take the time to consider prudent tuition reform only after all stakeholders are appropriately involved.  After you enter your information, you can personalize the testimony (or leave it as is), and once you hit send, it will be faxed to the Board of Regents.  I encourage you to read the rest of this email if you want to learn more about the proposed reforms and what they mean for students - but
be sure to submit the testimony!

After you submit your written testimony, please help me spread the word.  Get as many of your friends and family members as you can to tell the regents to vote NO to increasing tuition.  Please forward this email to everyone who might agree with you.

The regent's public commenting process can be cumbersome (for instance, emails are not accepted, comments have to be faxed or hand delivered - which we take care of for you) and restrictive (there is a window of only two days to submit comments), but I've simplified the process and made sure all of the official requirements are met so your voice will be heard.  A copy of the testimony will be sent to Governor Perry; as chief executive of the state, he has influence over higher education issues.

Last May, over 500 students submitted testimony speaking out against a proposed fee increase, and they were successful. Because of their actions, your mandatory student fees were $73 less this year, and A&M students saved approximately $4 million, collectively.  If you take action, I know we can be successful this time too.  But the stakes are much higher this time, so it is very important that you take a few minutes to submit testimony.  After you submit testimony, encourage your friends to do the same - thousands of students submitting testimony will be very influential.

It's important to understand the tuition approval process, fixed tuition price plan, and course fee consolidation.  I'll also briefly share some of my ideas for beneficial tuition policy.  This is certainly a long winded email, but I want to share everything I can because I care about you and the future of this university.

Tuition Approval Process

Increased tuition must be approved by the Texas A&M President, the TAMU System Chancellor, and the TAMU System Board of Regents.  Both the university and the regents must hold public hearings to solicit public testimony before taking action on the tuition proposals.  The process for fees is generally the same but can vary (for instance, individual course fees need approval from only the university president and don't require public hearings).  Texas A&M usually holds tuition hearings in the spring, and the regents typically vote on tuition proposals in May.  It is very unique for tuition proposals to be considered in January, especially since this year's proposals are major reforms.  There's no pressing need to take action on these matters so early in the year; in fact, major reforms warrant substantial stakeholder involvement, especially if we want to implement the best possible policies to benefit students and the university.

It's also very unique for tuition proposals to be voted on at an out of town meeting (this week's meeting is in Galveston).  Since at least 2006, the regents have taken action on tuition proposals only at meetings held in College Station.  Surely they must realize that it is prohibitive for most students to travel to Galveston to attend the public hearing.  Click here to see the schedule for the meeting.

The tuition proposals are considered as "Agenda Items."  This year, there are two separate agenda items that will substantially change and increase student tuition.  "Agenda Item 1" is a proposal that would make each university in the Texas A&M System require all undergraduates to be on a "fixed tuition price plan" (explained in next section).

"Agenda Item 2" is the tuition and fee increase proposal specific to Texas A&M University.  It includes mandatory fixed-tuition price plan for undergraduates, new and increased differential tuition for undergraduates, "college advancement fees" for graduate students, and a consolidation of course fees (explained in later section).  The regents will vote on these agenda items on Thursday.

Fixed Tuition Price Plan

Under a fixed tuition price plan, students pay the same amount for tuition and fees each semester they are in college (up to 8-9 semesters, depending on your major).  Your tuition is "locked-in."  While this may sound appealing on the surface (who wouldn't want to be immune to tuition increases), the tuition price is inflated much higher than what you pay now.  An automatic 2.2% increase in tuition per year is assumed (which comes out to about $100/semester/year), so by your senior year your tuition is around $300/per semester higher than when you entered.  But instead of your tuition going up each year, you pay for the automatic increase as soon as you start college (in this example, it would be about $75 per semester more than the base rate).  The automatic increases are spread out across 4 years.

Last year, the state legislature passed legislation - HB 29 - that requires public state universities to offer students the option to enroll in a "fixed tuition price plan" (the university administration typically calls it "guaranteed tuition and fees" - I guess that sounds more appealing than the legal terminology?).  The law does not require universities to force students to enroll in a fixed tuition price plan; however, that is exactly what Texas A&M is proposing.  If the regents approve either agenda item this week, starting next year, all undergraduate students will be forced into fixed tuition price plans and students will no longer be able to pay for college the way they traditionally have.


Here are a few of the consequences of the fixed tuition price plan mandate:

  • Automatic tuition increases substantially increase the cost of college.  These automatic increases are much higher than the recent historical rate of tuition and fee increases.
  • Students who graduate early will pay much more than they would under the current tuition plan (the early years of college are more expensive since you are paying for the automatic tuition increase of semesters you might not actually take).
  • You are paying for your senior year as a freshman:  Students with loans will accumulate debt quicker and will end up paying more interest in the long run.  Alternatively, students with college savings will use up their money quicker since there is not as much time for interest to accumulate.
  • Students who switch out of a more expensive college (i.e. engineering) as underclassmen will be hit especially hard. 
I applaud innovation and think fixed tuition price plans will be of benefit to some students.  However, students should be able to retain the right to choose how they want to pay tuition, because the one-size-fits all plan probably won't work well for most.  If you think students should have the choice to opt-out of fixed tuition price plans, take action now by submitting testimony to the regents.

Proposed undergraduate tuition rates for next academic year (full time students, 12+ hours)

College

Incoming Freshmen

Current Freshmen

Current Sophomores

Current Juniors-Seniors

Agriculture

$4,813

$4,760

$4,708

$4,657

Agriculture Eng.

$5,226

$5,169

$5,113

$5,057

Architecture

$5,334

$5,275

$5,218

$5,131

Business

$5,097

$5,041

$4,986

$4,932

Education

$4,924

$4,870

$4,816

$4,764

Engineering

$5,399

$5,340

$5,282

$5,224

General Studies

$4,590

$4,540

$4,490

$4,441

Geosciences

$4,695

$4,644

$4,593

$4,543

Liberal Arts

$4,678

$4,626

$4,576

$4,526

Science

$4,694

$4,643

$4,592

$4,542

Vet Med

$4,707

$4,655

$4,604

$4,554


Course Fee Consolidation

Course fees range from a few dollars to $200 and are charged for individual courses and labs.  They are traditionally used to buy lab equipment, materials, special facilities, non-teaching salaries, and a number of other course specific needs.  In theory, course fees are the most efficient method of allocating money to the uses that best align with the priorities and needs of students.  Unfortunately, the A&M administration has not been a good steward of the money collected through course fees.  In a recent internal audit, the A&M System found that:

"83% of course fees reviewed did not have the original course fee approval forms that provided the documentation to support why the fee was created and justifies the rate being charged.  As a result, the University was not able to provide information to support compliance with the statutory requirements that the rate of the course fee reasonable reflects the actual cost to the University of the materials or services for which the fee is collected."

Essentially, students have been paying millions of dollars every year in fees that are not accountable and were potentially illegally charged.  Instead of correcting their severe lapse of transparency and accountability, the university administration wants to eliminate transparency and accountability altogether by eliminating course fees and replacing them with much more expensive tuition increases.  The course fees will be replaced with higher tuition rates and new differential tuition.  Tuition will be further increased to fund need-based financial aid.  There is nothing that prevents new course fees from being added again.

Consequences of the course fee consolidation plan:
  • The course fee consolidation substantially increases tuition, and you'll now be paying more even if you don't often take expensive courses. 
  • Many students who are struggling to afford college will have to pay higher tuition to fund need-based financial aid programs even though they probably won't benefit from such programs. 
  • Due to the across the board increase proposed, students in less expensive colleges such as Liberal Arts will now be paying more to subsidize students in more expensive colleges. 
  • Funds that were tied to educational uses will now be available for almost anything, creating more opportunity for waste and misallocation. 
  • Instead of student funds going to individual colleges based on the courses they offer, more funds will be centralized to be used by the top administrators for their pet projects.  This will especially affect the College of Science and the College of Veterinary Medicine, which educate students from across the university (in expensive science courses and labs). 
Prudent Tuition Policy

Even though the university did not increase fees last year (they wanted $36.30/semester more), life continued - the university didn't suffer catastrophe.  In fact, it was quite the opposite:  millions of dollars were available for strategic initiatives, the student body grew substantially, campus services ran (and some even improved), and the Kyle Field reconstruction is proceeding (click here to see for yourself).  And for areas that might need a little boost, there is already plenty of money controlled by the university administration that could be used to address those needs.

Texas A&M is a great university (I admit, I think it's the best), and with prudent tuition policies, A&M will continue to be known by more and more people across the world as one of the best research and education universities:  providing a top-notch, affordable education to a diverse student body and staying at the cutting-edge of discovery.  If this is the future you want for A&M, it's important for you to take action to ensure any new tuition policies promote this vision. 

When setting tuition policy, it should be recognized that a diverse student body has tens of thousands of unique circumstances.  A one-size-fits-all plan might work great for some, but it might prevent others from being able to continue as students at A&M.  Instead, we should look for choice and flexibility.  We should pay for what we get, and we should get what we pay for.  Our interests are best served when dollars are tied to what we actually utilize, not the interests of a centralized administration that might not prioritize the same things you do.

In the spirit of the marketplace of ideas that A&M should be, I want to offer a few tuition policies I think would improve the university while keeping education affordable.  You don't have to agree with these ideas in order to oppose the university administration's proposals, but it's always good to be aware of alternatives.

Kesley's tuition policy ideas:
  • Eliminate flat-rate tuition.  Currently, full-time students pay the same rate no matter how many hours they take.  Thousands of students are currently paying for 15 credit hours even though they are taking only 12-14 credit hours.  This unnecessary burden adds to student debt, hurts students who work, and punishes well-rounded students who choose to take 12-14 hours in order to pursue other worthy interests.  In fact, some students working to fund their education must drop to part-time status to avoid paying flat-rate tuition.    
  • Utilize course fees to tie student dollars to what students actually use.  Well ran and accountable course fees are a very efficient way to fund higher education.  The model allocates resources to those areas that are providing the most benefit to students.  The university should conduct an external audit to clean up the current course fee mess, and then differential tuition should be phased out in exchange for increased course fees for those courses that are more expensive to offer.    
  • Audit non-academic fees and lower the financial burden students are faced with to fund entities that they do not use and that do not contribute to the academic rigor of the university.  Revert the university advancement fee to individual student fees, modifying rates (both up and down) more frequently to transparently and more efficiently fund the non-academic services at A&M.    
  • Ensure adequate course offerings so students can graduate on time (with course fees, the university makes more money for offering more courses and educating more students.  Under their proposed plan, they will actually make more money if fewer courses are offered and students take longer to graduate).  Develop innovative ways to tie college education costs to student outcomes (i.e. financial incentives for good grades or graduating sooner, etc.). 
No matter your ideas for improving tuition policy, I hope you agree these policies are of incredible significance to students and our university.  Therefore, an abundance of ideas should be taken into consideration; plans should be detailed, complete, and well thought out (and not free from criticism); all stakeholders should be involved in the process; and Aggie values should not be forgotten in the process.  Certainly, no plan should proceed without significant student involvement:  committees should be open to all students, town hall meetings and forums should be held, the plan's impact on the student experience should be analyzed, and the final vote should be made in College Station. 

The proposed increases aren't your average yearly fee increase request.  Major reforms have been proposed; they should be taken seriously - not merely rushed through

, we can't let the Texas A&M administrators get away with this unnecessary tuition increase! With A&M's enrollment being at its highest ever, there's more tuition revenue than ever before.  Tuition is soon to skyrocket, unless you take action.  Tell the regents that your tuition is high enough already!


It is up to you to make sure the voice of the students is powerful at the upcoming Board of Regents meeting. But you must act now!  For your letter to count, it must be received by 8:30am Wednesday morning.  You and I can make a difference!  If you want to do more to help or have any questions, please contact me.

Sincerely,

Kelsey Magliolo
Texas Aggie Conservatives

P.S.  Please help me prevent tuition increases that will exceed $700 per semester for some students and at least several hundred dollars per semester for the rest of us.  Take action by clicking here to submit testimony against the tuition increase proposals to the TAMUS Board of Regents.


Tl;dr:  Tuition will go up by $100's of dollars per semester unless you click here to speak out against the increase.