Legislature Struggles to Lower College Tuition Costs

For many high schoolers, getting into college is much easier than paying for it, and state lawmakers this week are trying to help with legislation to freeze tuition rates at the state's universities.

"Texas simply cannot maintain a strong economy without also maintaining a strong workforce.  And we cannot maintain a strong workforce without affordable access to higher education," State Senator Larry Taylor says.

 In testimony before the Senate Higher Education Committee, he laid out one of several bills that would have a profound effect on the cost of college.  The average tuition and fees at public universities have climbed 148 percent in the past 15 years.

"This broken system is leaving an entire generation of students mired in debt and unable to fully participate in the Texas economy," he said.

The committee looked at several bills filed this session.  One would allow universities to raise their tuition only if they met performance metrics set by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and even then, it would be capped at between one and three percent.  Another would cap tuition and fees for four years. 

 Another would put the power of the purse strings in the hands of the state legislature.

The plans did not sit well with a panel of public education leaders, who all feel like the tuition hikes have been modest and needed.  

University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven told the senators that a cap would handcuff their ability to keep and attract the best professors.

"We want to remain affordable, make no mistake about that," he testified.  "But we must also remain competitive."

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