Wednesday, May 17, 2017

#TXLEGE: Tuition Freeze gets late House hearing....


"Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord."
Colossians 3:20

[Note: The hearing can be viewed here.  SB 19 is the third bill under consideration (about 45 minutes in).  Our testimony can be viewed at the 58:12 mark.]

Following our unlikely kumbaya session with Greg Fenves this morning, less than an hour later we were in more familiar territory testifying on the opposite side of Chancellor McRaven on the subject of tuition increases.

SB 19, the tuition freeze bill that the Senate heard in March and passed out in April, got a late session hearing in the House Higher Ed. committee this morning.  We showed up to support the bill.  But unfortunately, we doubt it moves forward.

Chancellor McRaven continued in the disingenuous vein in which he testified in the Senate hearing.  He claimed the UT system has been "conservative" with tuition increases.  Of course, he overlooked the fact that most of the period under consideration occurred before his tenure and that one of the first things he did was push a tuition increase.

Representative Donna Howard asked the Chancellor several leading questions about needing tuition hikes in the face of "insufficient state appropriations" and tried to claim the legislature was "forcing costs down" to the institutional level.  Naturally, he agreed.  Howard closed by noting she was "hopeful this legislation won't go anywhere," which is a noteworthy statement coming from the vice chair of the calendars committee.

That being said, there's one rumor we've heard that's worth considering: It might be the case that Lt. Governor Patrick has asked for SB 19 in exchange for giving the House the higher ed funding it's asked for in the budget.  During an appearance before the committee on an unrelated bill, Appropriations chair John Zerwas teased that he thought a deal on higher ed funding was likely...which is interesting considering that the committee heard Patrick's priority tuition bills immediately afterwards.  If that deal indeed exists, it's one we'll take.

We testified that public universities love to build expensive buildings and hire expensive bureaucrats; refusing to permit them to pass these costs onto students is the first step to forcing them to set priorities in their budgets.  We also refuted Chancellor McRaven's selective reporting on the history of university tuition by pointing out that most of the time period under consideration was during a different era in Board of Regents history.  Finally, we cautioned the committee that if the tuition freeze died this session, the outrage over this issue would only grow between now and 2019.

Bottom Line: We'll just have to see....

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