Legislation to control tuition increases

Wendy Crowley’s title was corrected at 10:33 p.m. Tuesday.

Congress is working to pass new legislation to help off-set tuition increases at universities.

Members of the Education and Labor Committee, which address present issues for students and workers, think the College Opportunity and Affordability Act will expose colleges with large tuition increases that make it difficult for prospective students to afford a higher education by placing the institutions on a “watch list.”

The watch list will require institutions to form a Quality Efficiency Task Force to find out why tuition has increased and what will be done to stem the increase in the future, wrote Elizabeth Esfahani, spokesperson for Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, in an e-mail statement.

College Board reported an average 6.3 percent tuition increase at private schools for this year, not including extra university fees and room and board costs.

Colleges will be put on three lists: top 5 percent most expensive, least expensive and largest percentage increase in tuition, wrote Rachel Racusen, spokeswoman for Congressman George Miller, D-Calif., in an e-mail statement. Institutions will be held accountable for the rising cost of tuition, Racusen wrote.

According to House records, the universities and colleges categorized in the top 5 percent of the largest percentage increase in tuition would be subject to the bill’s sanctions.

According to the College Board Web site, the price of an education at a private university has increased 33 percent in the past 10 years.

The committee wants to restore the promise of the initial Higher Education Act, which expanded access to education in 1965 to ensure college is affordable for all, especially low-income students and minorities, Miller said at a committee markup meeting in November, according to the meeting minutes.

Private institutions such as TCU, Baylor University and Southern Methodist University have contributed to the increase with tuition prices ranging from 7.8 percent to a little more than 8 percent, according to the universities’ financial aid offices.

The House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 354-58 on Feb. 2, according to Racusen.

According to the bill, any institution that had an increase above 6.3 percent this year would be at risk for the watch list.

Along with Rice University, SMU and Baylor, TCU would be part of the watch list.

TCU increased its tuition this year by 8 percent for the 2007-2008 academic year, setting its price at $24,820, said Wendy Crowley, director of Student Financial Service.

“It’s difficult to talk about this subject right now because the bill has not been enacted yet, and tuition prices usually aren’t set until November,” said Tracy Syler-Jones, assistant vice chancellor for marketing and communication.

Other private universities, such as the University of Dallas, would not be watch-listed. Tuition increased by 5 percent with a cost set at $21,820, said Lualhati Aguas, a cashier officer at the university.

According to Esfahani’s statement, the act also aims to make college textbooks more affordable by providing students and parents information on textbook prices ahead of time.

If the bill is enacted into law, the Department of Education would release an annually renewed list of watch-listed institutions, according to House records.

For Your Info:

Tuition Increases in Major Private Colleges and Institutions in Texas from 2006-2007 to 2007-2008:Watch-Listed

Rice University: 7.1%; $28,400
Baylor University: 8.0%; $22,220
Southern Methodist University: 7.8%; $27,400
Abilene Christian University: 6.9%; $557 per hour
Trinity University: 6.9%; $24,864
St. Edward’s University: 8.5%; $20,400
Hardin-Simmons University: 8.4%;$580 per hour
Texas Christian University: 8%; $24,820

Not Watch-Listed

University of Dallas: 5.0%; $21,820
St. Mary’s University: 0%; $20,300
University of the Incarnate Word: 4.3%; $19,200
Lubbock Christian University: 4.7%; $13,134
Southwestern University: 1.06%; $25,740
Baylor College of Medicine: 0%; $6,550
South Texas College of Law: 5.35%; $11,505