Tuition increase looms as UTEP prepares to send proposal to UT System Board of Regents

Alonso Moreno, Copy Editor

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As December approaches, the University of Texas at El Paso students are concerned about finals, projects and graduation. However, now they can add one more worry to their end of the year activities, tuition increase.

UTEP is in its final steps to complete a tuition increase proposal that it will submit to the UT System Board of Reagents on Dec. 7.

In October, The Prospector reported that the UT System board had authorized all of its institutions to construct and present proposals for increasing tuition and fees for the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years.

The 2017 fiscal year for the university would mean that students could expect the increase to begin with the fall 2016 semester.

“It’s not what you want to hear when you just returned to school,” said Luis Hidalgo, senior computer science major. “I finished my previous degree last December, and now I am in the process of entering a master’s program, but this clearly becomes a concern going forward.”

Hidalgo said that even small increases could signify something important to a student—anything from a book to a possible parking spot.

UTEP held a public forum last Tuesday, Nov. 10 to receive student and community input on the proposed tuition and fees. Dr. Gary Edens, vice president of student affairs, gave a presentation, where he shared numbers on expenses and the possible tuition increases.

“We don’t want to be a UT Dallas, who are paying $5,900 in tuition every semester per student,” Edens said. “But we do feel like we need to make investments when we are given the opportunity.”

The university is considering anywhere from a 2 to 5 percent increase per semester for the proposal. In financial terms this would result in $72 for a 2 percent increase, $108 for 3 percent increase, $144 for 4 percent increase, and $180 for 5 percent increase.

The current in-state fall 2015 academic cost is about $3,613, with the amount changing depending on academic program or number of hours.

“We have run the numbers,” Edens said. “Just to balance the budget, just to stay even, we are looking at a 3.5 percent increase as necessary.”

To help explain the reason of the tuition increase, Edens explained what the university budget is made up. Since 1984, where the majority of funding was provided through state appropriations (59 percent), the university has seen a drop in appropriations (only 21 percent in 2014) and an increase in expenses such as utilities and health insurance; forcing the university to get creative with its budget.

University efforts have included cutbacks in full-time positions, outsourcing of functions and even tinkering with the heating and cooling of buildings.

“That’s the situation we are in right now, if the state is going to continue to give us less money, then how do we make it up?” Edens said. “That’s the issue we deal with every year.”

The last time the university initiated a substantial tuition rate increase was in 2011 – 2012, when there was an increase of 6 percent, which costs students an additional $198 dollars. This increase was due to the increased swimming and fitness fee. Since then, increases have been present, but at lower numbers.

The 2012 – 2013 year saw a $75 increase; the 2013 – 2014 year had a $35 increase; the 2014 – 2015 was $23; and the 2015 – 2016 year saw only a $5 increase. Last year’s small increase was not by choice, the university had sent a tuition increase proposal for the current fiscal year as well, but the UT System turned down all increase requests from system schools in order to keep tuition costs stable.

Students present at the presentation had mixed reactions to the proposal, with some expressing complete opposition and some standing somewhere in the middle.

“I would mind, like almost every other student,” said Adrian Lopez, a UTEP alumni who is considering returning to school to pursue a master’s degree in engineering. “But in the end, it is to benefit the school, no matter how we, as paying students see it.”

Alonso Moreno may be reached at [email protected]