The Great Depression of 1929, and World War II greatly impacted Texas public higher education. In spite of all the turmoil, Texas was able to maintain a number of its colleges and universities and to keep their tuition within the range of many students.

In 1955, the state legislature created the Texas Commission on Higher Education. The Commission was given the assignment of coordinating the development and financing of higher education institutions. Before 1955, each institution worked separately with the legislature to gain financial support.

The Commission had no regulatory authority and was replaced in 1965 by (what is now known as) the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which does have regulatory authority. One important aspect of its regulatory authority is the creation of formulas for the allocation of funding for state colleges and universities.

For a number of years, the legislature set tuition for state colleges and universities. From 1955 until 1987, it was $4 dollars per credit hour for Texas undergraduate residents. In 1987, it was increased to $12 per credit hour for undergraduates. After 1987, it was to increase $2 per year until it reached $32 per credit hours. Colleges and universities were authorized to charge a higher rate of tuition for graduate and out-of-state students.

In 2003, everything changed. In that year the legislature granted tuition-setting authority to the governing boards of state colleges and universities. The trade-off was for the state to defray less of the costs of operations, and for the institutions to assume more of the operational costs.

The following information was obtained from the website published by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

At present, there are three types of tuition: 1) Statutory tuition, which is set by state law; 2) Designated tuition, which is an amount established by the governing board of a state college or university needed for the efficient operation of the institution, and which varies from institution to institution. 3) Board authorized tuition, which is a tuition charge for graduate programs and which may be two times the charge for undergraduate tuition.

A state college or university may also charge fees that are in addition to tuition. There are two types: 1) Mandatory fees that are authorized by state law, and which are used to for services applicable to every student. 2) Course fees that are required of all students participating in certain courses such as a chemistry lab. Included in this category are certain types of discretionary fees as, for example, a parking fee.

According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, average academic charges for a resident student taking 15 hours per semester in a state public institution have increased by 112 percent since 2003.

The proper method of controlling tuition costs is still a matter of heated debate. At present, two-thirds of the students graduating from college will have student debt upon graduation. The average balance per student is $26,000. That total amount of student debt exceeds $1.3 trillion. In 2012, 20.5 percent of student loans in Texas were delinquent. Student loan debt is only exceeded by home loan debt. It now surpasses credit card debt.

Banker Phares is a John and Karen Mast Professor at SFA. He teaches personal financial planning in the Department of Economics and Finance at SFA and is board certified in estate planning and probate law.

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