Tuesday, April 4, 2017

#TXLEGE: Senate PASSES MULTIPLE BILLS curtailing University Tuition!!!

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

If colleges and universities are ever going to be brought under control, you need to restrict their ability to raise tuition at will; this afternoon the Texas Senate passed two bills to that effect.

SB 18 (Seliger), which would restrict something called 'tuition set-asides,' passed 20-11 in a party line vote.  SB 19 (Seliger), which would freeze tuition for two years and places limits on increases beyond that, passed 29-2.  While we welcome both bills, we've always felt SB 19 was a stronger approach, and we consider this view vindicated by today's respective vote totals.

Tuition set-asides are a somewhat obnoxious subsidy whereby 15% of the tuition a student pays is dedicated to provide financial aid to 'low income' students.  If that sounds like an excessively complicated policy that raises costs for everyone not deemed 'low income,' that's because it is.  The problems with SB 18, however, is that it doesn't prohibit the practice.  It merely ends the legislative mandate for this practice.  The actual policy decisions are still left in the hands of the respective boards of regents (and it doesn't take a genius to see that the UT board, at a minimum, would ignore this bill).  Furthermore, considering the large number of minority students who receive set-asides, the risk of inflaming the identity politics crowd is obvious.  As we've discussed previously, we're worried SB 18 will produce a lot of sound an fury without changing much on the ground.

SB 19, however, is a straight two-year tuition freeze followed by meaningful limitations moving forward.  If that sounds like a much simpler approach than the one detailed in the previous paragraph, that's because it is.  That's why it received nine more votes.

Indeed, the fact that the overwhelmingly majority of the Democrat caucus in the Senate voted for SB 19 suggests that it will be very difficult for the House to kill this bill.  Like it or not, you need Democrat votes to pass things in the House.  And it could be difficult for Democrats in the House to go home without passing this bill after it flew through the Senate.

As we have discussed previously,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.

Bottom Line: We'll have to see what happens, but this will be hard to kill in the House without significant blowback.

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