Thursday, March 23, 2017
Tuition Day in Texas Senate's Higher Ed Committee!!!
"Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord."
[Note: Our testimony can be viewed just after the 1:36 mark here; we'll try to get it up on our YouTube page in the next few days.]
Yesterday morning, the Texas Senate's higher education committee heard five bills related to reigning in university tuition increases. The hearing was in an unusual format where all five bills were laid out then testimony was taken on all five. Due to misreading the Senate schedule (we thought the hearing began at 9 when it began at 8), we arrived late to the hearing, but we've watched the remainder of the hearing online and did make it in time to testify FOR SB 19 (Seliger) and SB 250 (Schwertner).
Seliger's bill would impose a hard tuition freeze for four years, while Schwertner's would impose a long term cap on tuition at the rate of inflation.
For the most part, testimony was the predictable litany of 'sky will fall' nonsense in the event public universities were required to show mild discipline in containing costs; lots of hysteria about "workforce" and "economic" development.
Chancellor McRaven, however, used his testimony as an opportunity for chutzpah about the UT board being "conservative" with tuition hikes over the past half decade, considering that he came on board at the end of that time and one of his first acts as chancellor was to push a tuition hike. McRaven cited 2011 tuition data even though he was only hired in 2015. Also, for the record, Wallace Hall was on all of those boards 5 and 6 years ago. Beyond that, the Chancellor spoke in cliches about "being competitive," "excellence," and "investing in student success." The Chancellor did not refer to his military service at any time during testimony.
As it relates to Senator Seliger's bill, we testified that colleges and universities love to build expensive buildings and hire lots of bureaucrats at six figure salaries and that forcing them to take a time out on tuition hikes would begin to curtail that process. [Note: It's also worth pointing out that it could be VERY hard for the House to kill (or Abbott to veto) a full tuition freeze...like it or not, suburban parents vote.] On Schwertner's bill, we testified that if Boards of Regents are going to continue defying the legislature then the time has come to begin removing various authorities from them.
Finally, we urged the committee to take a very hard look at UTIMCO's $37 billion in assets as it debates higher ed. funding moving forward.
Bottom Line: An encouraging hearing, we'll have to see what happens moving forward.