1.24.2004

TEXAS POLITICS - Tuition Deregulation

Coming as no surprise, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education has just released a report, appropriately titled, "Responding to the Crisis in College Opportunity."
In 2003, states (directly or indirectly) and public colleges and universities replaced most lost state revenues by increasing tuition. The consequence was that the major burden of reductions in state higher education budgets was borne by students and families in the forms of reduced college opportunity, steep tuition increases, and increased debt.

In response, Texas lawmakers have expressed shock at the Board of Regents Tuition Gone Wild scheming. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst has feigned concern that recent tuition hikes were higher than expected when the lege voted to deregulate tuition.

Where did this sudden concern come from, and why didn't they have it when students across the state and country were lobbying their congressmen prior to passage of this bill? How was it that we saw this consequence, and they didn't? Students from the major public universities to the private colleges to even community colleges rallied at the Capitol. Nor was this a partisan issue - even the Young Conservatives opposed deregulation. Stacks of petitions were signed, and countless letters were sent to politicians, but our cries of distress fell on deaf ears.

Students across the country are experiencing drastic tuition increases. They are either ratcheting up enormous debts, or being forced to drop out, as this report confirms. Windows of education opportunity for poor people, especially minorities, are being shut across the nation. Perhaps this will help start the wake-up call to get college students to vote, the group with the lowest voter turnout. We need legislators who will restore the state government commitment to higher education.

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