College tuition is going up, but students are poorer and responsible for more of the cost of higher education.
North Texas institutions recognize these issues and are adapting to support the needs of students and local communities, two leading educators told members of the Richard Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Richard Benson, president, UT Dallas, and Dr. Joe May, chancellor, DCCCD, discussed the state of higher education during the Education and Workforce Committee’s Education Unplugged series. Videos of the presentation are available on the RCC YouTube channel.
"One of the things that we’re seeing is that our students are poorer than at any other time since the statistics have been held," May told the attendees. Since 1999, the median household income for the area that we serve has dropped 60 percent.
Yet DCCCD has one of the lowest semester hour price in the nation. However, state funding is continuing to decrease and more of the burden is being placed on students, so the network of seven colleges is looking at innovative ways to help students succeed.
For instance, the district is looking at raising the semester hour cost, but including books in that price. “We’ve found that 40 percent of students were not buying learning materials as they’ve gotten poorer. It’s hard to be successful when you don’t have the materials,” May said.
At UTD, the tuition is one of the highest for public schools in the state because of its STEM focus. But it is well below average nationally, said Benson. "We believe we are providing a high-impact education at a moderate price point.”
While about 60 percent receive some sort of financial aid, two-thirds graduate with no debt.
UTD recently qualified for two prestigious funds geared toward developing more Tier One universities. The National University Research fund and the Texas Research Incentive Program matches funding from university donors and philanthropists designated for research. The university also is working toward membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU), which is on the leading edge of innovation, scholarship and solutions that contribute to scientific progress, economic development, security and well-being. Texas as three AAUs out of 60 nationally, but none are in North Texas. “We think that Dallas Ft. Worth metroplex needs this kind of powerhouse and we’re going to try to get there,” Benson said.
May described a cooperative program between DCCCD colleges and local high schools. “The Promise owns the transition from high school and college” by working with students, parents, teachers, principals and colleges.
The Promise partnered with 31 high schools, starting with the lowest performing, and will continue adding 12 schools each year. So far, 67 percent of the 16,000 participating seniors completed the FAFSA.
The Promise works with any student, no matter if they’re going to other schools in North Texas besides DCCCD. “Now there is no excuse for anyone to say that they can’t afford college.”
Other topics addressed by Benson and May included legislative issues, specifically general education funding, small business education centers and expanding dual credit programs.