Regents act on medical school funding and UT Austin tuition

As you may have now heard, today the UT Board of Regents took actions that will have profound effects on our university.

The Board voted to allocate $25 million recurring, with an additional $5 million for eight years, to fund a medical school in Austin. This allocation — along with a pending $250 million commitment from the Seton Healthcare Family for a new teaching hospital — moves us closer than ever to bringing a medical school to UT Austin. The founding of a medical school at UT would be an enormous event in the life of the University, would offer dramatic new opportunities for our students and our faculty, and would advance health care in Central Texas.

Nevertheless, I’m disappointed to report that the Board declined to adopt our tuition recommendation. Instead it voted to freeze undergraduate tuition at its current level for Texas residents at UT Austin for the next two years. It did allocate $6.6 million of non-recurring money from the Available University Fund (the endowment from the West Texas oil lands) for those same two years. It adopted our request for a 3.6 percent increase for graduate students but declined to adopt it for the second year. Tuition for out-of-state undergraduates will increase by 2.1 percent for two years rather than 3.6 percent as we requested. The tuition freeze was not applied to any other UT System school.

While many students naturally will welcome the news of a tuition freeze, we should understand the serious consequences for UT Austin and for the ability of Texans to benefit from strong public universities.

Our university is supported financially by four pillars: state funding, tuition, research grants, and philanthropy. State support in constant dollars per UT student has fallen for more than a quarter century. With a multi-year tuition freeze, the second pillar of our funding structure effectively will be cut each year by the rate of inflation. While we appreciate the AUF allocation, it will provide less than half of the increase we had planned for. Moreover, a one-time allocation, however much it might mitigate short-term problems, cannot substitute for stable, recurring, sustainable funding needed to support long-term efforts aimed at student success.

This action inevitably will affect our ability to teach our students and make new discoveries. Our tuition proposal, which was unanimously recommended by the students on UT’s Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, was dedicated to fund initiatives to enhance student success, improve four-year graduation rates, and increase scholarships.

As we prepare for next year’s budget, I will work with faculty, students, staff, and our administrative leadership to address how we use our resources to protect the quality of education here at UT.

The University of Texas has pursued excellence and has steadily grown stronger for 129 years. I am committed to protecting the quality of a UT education for Texans, for our children, and for our grandchildren.

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  1. No mention was made of alumni donations, especially related to supporting football. Was any consideration given to reallocating funds toward academic needs?

  2. I am a 40 year old PhD candidate in the Fine Arts School. Last week I found out that due to budget cuts I will only get a 25% appointment (10 hours of work a week=$2700 a semester, yes! A semester!), instead of the 50% appointment I had (20 hours a week=$5400 a semester). This means I also loose my health insurance (-$1200 a year). Plus, I am required to register for 9 credits a semester of which my department will cover for $1800. This means I have to pay for circa $3000 plus the 3.3% raise that was approved, plus fees. in other words, I will be giving back the university back my salary, while getting more in debt in order to pay for the other 18,000++ that grad student life costs.

    Dear President Powers, I think the Medical School can wait.

  3. Why do some students think that someone other than themselves and their parents are obligated to pay for their education? It’s nice if they are qualified for scholarships, of course; and it’s nice if their parents have money so there is no hardship. But, bottom line, a good education pays for itself in the long run through post-graduation earnings. There is no such thing as a free ride; if you cannot pay for your education while in school, and you borrow funds, then you have to pay your debts while working. So what if it takes you time and you can’t buy that brand new car upon graduation and live a life of luxury. Grow up and go to work and be responsible citizens. Enough whining about tuition: UT is still one of the least expensive Universities in the nation. And students are not entitled to a free education….if you think you are, you are mistaken.

  4. Disappointed about the tuition freeze? Wow, seriously?

    1. I am working during school and have had pretty nice paying internships and still cannot afford tuition without the help of my parents. However there are people are in more secure financial situations than I am still getting plenty of university tuition grants. Why don’t you take a better look at whom is receiving financial aid?

    2. This is at best, an average education. I am suppose to be in the best undergraduate business school in Texas. But the learning I have received is sub-par. The curriculum is neither challenging nor stimulating and students easily pass with a B without making the slightest effort. My high school teachers both cared more about their students and taught better.

  5. As funds go down and Staff is decimated, students and faculty will receive less support. Faculty members had better learn how to process all that paperwork themselves; students, too. Screw research and development, you won’t have time for that as you drown in the jobs the Staff used to do.

  6. Eric M. Larson says:

    In 1979, I earned a Master of Science in Community and Regional Planning degree from the Architecture School in a year and a semester (the required 48 hours + 3 hours of economics), while working 20 hours per week at UT’s then-Council for Advanced Transportation Studies. My earnings (and selling my plasma) paid for my books, tuition + fees, apartment rent, food and the occasional night on the town. I didn’t save a red cent, but also didn’t go into debt. Pulling that off would not be possible today because of the increased tuition, which is unfortunate for people who choose to go back to school mid-career, and have only themselves upon which to rely. Wages at UT have traditionally low for students and staff–then and now–for multiple reasons, and are likely to remain so because of an oversupply of skilled people. It might be worth rethinking part of the foregoing model, to determine whether some work activities could be more closely connected with the private sector and thus with (1) higher wages, and (2) real-world skills that impart practical skills that future employers will value. Jobs involving commercializing research, for example, might be worked into a formal curriculum of study and do a better job of exposing students to the competitiveness they will confront after graduating. I’m not suggesting this approach will cure all economic ills–but it may partially succeed, and improving the lot of 4% or 5% of students who would like to earn more money, would be 100% more than may be the case now.

  7. longtimelonghorn says:

    What are we not doing that other universities are doing in these critical years of recession and inflation?

    Why is education on any level in Texas and the USA, being cut sliced and dices? At what cost is this worth it? Our future will refect our inapporiate choices and come back to haunt us.

    Budgets everywhere are are created yearly with inflated and buffers in them somehow. Let the invited outside business members coming to audit UT see each department fiscal budgets from the last 3 yrs to compare all budgets and salaries increases…..maybe that will give them some food for thought of were cuts need to be made. Diversively compare the way UT allocates and spend monies differently than the top ten school that rank with UT. Although we are the premier school.

    Consider freezing special gifts monies and awards monies. Set a merit system of 2% of less across the board for all staff, faculty, adminstration, mangers……UT can save a penny or two there.

    Parking and Traffic has help with the inflation of the parking fees and fines. Put a freeze on that for our students and staff, we need a helping hand somewhere.

    Why put it on the backs of our undergraduates, out of state students to bring in the 3.6% increase? Most of our students are struggling except the ones with deep pockets. Now is that who we are secretly advertising to come to UT?

    I think if all the parents would stand with the students and seriously give more ideas and feedback UT would have more incentive to do what is best interest for the education and benefits of our students.

    Just thinking out of the box……….

  8. If we just un-invent money and return to the ways of the natives, we wouldn’t have to worry about any of this. Anarcho-primitivism!!

  9. Yolanda says:

    I spoke with a faculty member recently and he was bemoaning the fact that tuition would not be raised for two years. As an “older than average” or nontraditional student who has to foot part of the tuition costs, I don’t see how this is a bad thing for students and their parents. Also, I hate to say it but none of this money goes to staff salaries. Staff has been cut consistently across the board at the UT campus over the last several years. The workload doesn’t decrease, but the staf does. So, I for one am happy at least for two years the tuition will remain the same. It’ll be a tremendous help for me and I’ll only have to deal with my final year which if I work things out won’t be too difficult to manage. This is a state university, and it should serve it’s constituents, all of them, not just those who can afford to attend school here…or who by necessity take on outrageous student loans.

  10. Randy C says:

    It used to be that a student could work a summer job and a few hours per week while in-school and afford to attend UT. Now, we mortgage a house to do it.

    Therefore, I challenge you to deliver an education more efficiently. Optimize your processes, individually and collectively, as if there is no more funding. (That’s what we do in the private sector.)

    Randy C BSME ’83

  11. After far outpacing natural inflation and doubling tuition in the last decade, the University System (with the third largest endowment in the USA) should not be in the business of further taking advantage of their captive student population and their families. The University of Texas System should get back into the business of servicing the people of Texas and not simply promoting their research portfolio.

  12. I agree with the above. While a Medical School at UT Austin would be nice, the tuition rates are increasing at a very steep rate. Freezing tuition rates helps more of the UT community. With the current economic climate, I feel we can hold off on a medical school until a more appropriate time. UT BS in Physics ’11

  13. I am very pleased to hear that my alma mater, UT at Austin, is committed to establishing a medical school by providing $ 30 million per year and fundraising another $ 5 million per year for the next eight years. Austin community has proven its support with the amount of money to bring a medical school to Texas capital; Seton Healthcare Family has pledged to invest $250 million to build a new teaching hospital.
    The South Texas leaders have expressed the concerns to the UT Board of Regents about the lack of funding for their Valley medical school and “demanded blueprint and a timeline for a Valley medical school.”

    As I spent 2 years in doing my fellowship in South Texas, I experienced the severe shortage of physicians in the area and I share totally with the South Texas leaders’ concern. I am urging the South Texas leaders should seek advice from the president Scott Ransom of UNTHSC at Fort Worth on how to build a medical school, UNTMD, with a very low cost of $21.5 million over 5 year-period.

    UT Regents approve 35 millions in allocations for Austin medical school and the real need of increasing medical residency slots in Texas

  14. Helen A. says:

    Dear Sir:

    I gather that Texas has been a Republican state for many years. Perhaps this is one time that the Republican population can be asked for more money for education of its students, in the form of higher property taxes for both community colleges and universities. The grateful students will probably get jobs and join the Republican party, too!

  15. Mark: I believe that alumni donations fall under the fourth pillar: philanthropy. I doubt seriously that donations could be redirected against the conditions placed on them by the donor. Good luck getting football-obsessed alumni to redirect their donations themselves.

    Dr. Joyner: I’m not going to argue with a doctor of finance, but I will point out one thing that makes me say, “Hmmm…” The tuition increase was unanimously approved by the students involved in the process. Apparently they would like to see more money get raised this way. And since they’re the ones who’d be paying it and deriving the benefits from how it is spent, that’s a pretty strong endorsement. It would be interesting to know why the Regents chose to ignore it.

  16. I’m just wondering, while a long way off, what implications will there be for the Galveston Medical Branch and other healthcare training entities in the UT system? Will funds or personnel be diverted from those other institutions to support the Austin medical school?

  17. No mention was made of alumni donations, especially related to supporting football. Was any consideration given to reallocating funds toward academic needs?

    • Mark,

      UT is swimming in money. Where does it go?

      The football program, the stadium, lavish perks and extravagant raises for executives. (You can watch those raises online at sites run by the University of Virginia and the Texas Tribune.)

      Why is this so?

      Because UT is run just like any other American corporation. And the Regents (UT’s Board of Directors) covet their football team above all their other expensive toys.

  18. Dr. David Joyner says:

    No tears shed here.
    As a graduate of the engineering school at UT Austin & Dr. of Finance,
    I would say the University of Texas at Austin has more available funding for it than the average university. At the undergraduate level, I’m not yet convinced you are delivering more than the average university. I know that the average family sending their child to the University is not guaranteed increased revenue every year like University wants.
    As doctor of finance. I can tell you firsthand that most research universities have lost their way on their real purpose. The purpose for all those faculty and staff running around the campus is to teach the students. Publication of obscure magazines articles that will be read by 300 people (if you’re lucky)is not getting the bills paid. Even if the professor brings in $300,000 a year in grants (and most don’t) the same revenue can be generated between 10 and 20 students.
    There’s nothing wrong with having the Austin campus the research campus of UT system. I believe you just need to change your focus, research and publication is a luxury. You should get back to the core of the reason you are a University, graduate first rate undergraduate students in their field.

  19. With all due respect Mr. Powers, I for one am happy with the Board’s decision. Not to single out UT, but the cost of higher Ed in the US is not sustainable. How is $40k (conservatively, I might add) not an exorbitant amount to pay for an undergraduate degree? While I can respect your goals to make UT a top research university, you can’t continue to raise tuition to meet that goal. Hook ’em! Jeff M. UT BBA in MIS 95

    • Roland Sledge says:

      President Powers,
      You have my support. Continue your efforts to build the premier public university in the US.