Back to School: Tuition and Fees for Texas College Students Higher Than Ever

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While median household incomes in Texas stagnated from 2000 to 2012, tuition and fees at Texas' 38 Public Colleges and Universities have grown by more than 86% over the same period. Students beginning their college careers in Texas next year will pay more for college and take on more student loan debt than every generation of Texans before them.

Texas College Costs 2000 - 2012

According to data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, students paid an enrollment-weighted average of $8,073 in tuition and fees to attend public institutions of higher education in 2012, compared with 4,329 in 2000. Weighting averages by enrollment gives a more accurate picture of what the average student pays in Texas, because it means that institutions with larger full-time enrollments are weighted more heavily than those with smaller enrollments.

Read more below the fold!Median household income in Texas from 2000-2011 was essentially stagnant. This is significant, because it means that rising tuition costs are putting higher education incrementally further out of reach for families and students each year. The opportunity gap between the haves and have nots is growing in Texas.

Average tuition and fees at the University of Texas at Austin grew by 68% from 2000 to 2012, compared with 66% at Texas A&M University. The largest increase in average tuition and fees was at Texas Southern University, which saw a 158% increase in tuition. The University of Texas at Dallas had the highest average tuition and fees in Texas, at $11,168. Texas A&M Universty-Texarkana's tuition was the lowest, at $4,946.

The largest year-to-year increase in tuition occurred between 2003 and 2004. In 2003, the 78th Legislature passed HB 3015. It allowed governing boards of public universities to set different designated tuition rates. There is no upper limit on the amount of designated tuition that a university may charge. Between 2003 and 2004 academic years, tuition increased an average of 21%.

Texas' disinvestment in higher education began about four decades ago. In the early 1970s, Texas paid for nearly 85 percent of the cost of running the educational side of public universities like the University of Texas at Austin. Today, the state-appropriated fraction of the total budget for UT Austin is below 20 percent.

According to a recent study, two trends seem to be driving disinvestment in higher education. First, other budgetary demands, noticeably medicare, have crowded out higher education expenditures. Second, budget deficits created by economic downturns have been closed, in part, by cuts to higher education. Those cuts are not returned in boom years.

A school-by-school breakdown in the cost of college that I prepared last year is below. It shows the increase in tuition, in 2011 dollars and percentages, from 2000-2011.

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