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That decline in international students is here

We knew it was coming.

UHCL is among several universities around Texas that this year have seen a sharp drop in international enrollment, as the number of international student applications to four-year public universities has plummeted by more than 10,000 after three years of growth, according to recently compiled data.

Experts and college administrators blame a number of factors, including President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric during the 2016 campaign and in office, as well as the global economy.

The decline is significant because regional universities such as UHCL depend more on tuition revenue amid uncertain state funding from Texas lawmakers. International students pay higher tuition than in-state students, and their decline is forcing some Texas campuses to question if – and how – to recruit them moving forward.

“When we were seeing heavy (enrollment by) international graduate students, we had a lot more revenue,” said Jean Carr, UHCL’s executive budget director. “Now, seeing the decline, we’re having to figure out how to cover that shortfall.”

[…]

Universities tried to stem the decline in international students. Colleges extended deadlines, offered more support in the application process and launched marketing campaigns that told prospective students that they were welcome in Texas.

It wasn’t enough.

Overall, about three-quarters of four-year public universities in Texas saw declines in international student enrollment this fall, a Houston Chronicle review of preliminary university data found.

About 23 percent of the 35 institutions saw an uptick in international students. Two institutions either reported no change or did not report preliminary enrollment figures.

From 2013 to 2015, international student enrollment in reporting Texas schools grew from 36,703 to 45,609 students. International student enrollment declined slightly in 2016 and then dropped by more than 2,000 students this fall.

Some of the sharpest declines came at regional universities that lack the name recognition of universities with large-scale athletic programs or top-of-the-line research heft.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley lost more than 100 international students, a 14 percent decline. Texas A&M University at Commerce saw a drop of more than 180 students (a 22 percent drop), while Lamar University in Beaumont lost more than 350 international students (a 37 percent reduction).

Meanwhile, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin saw small increases in international student enrollment of less than 2 percent each.

See here for the background. This is one of those things that I fear once we lose it we’ll never get it back, at least not to where it was before. At the national level, and at the state level, we have made ourselves worse off for no good reason and no benefit in return. This is just one example of far too many.

Call to action: DREAM Act repeal hearing set for Monday

You know the drill.

The push to repeal a 2001 law that allows some undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities is returning to the legislative spotlight, but on an unusual stage.

On Monday, the border security subcommittee of the Senate’s Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee is scheduled to hear Senate Bill 1819, by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, which would do away with the in-state tuition provision.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s decision to send the bill to the border security panel — instead of the education or state affairs committees — strikes some lawmakers as a signal that the deck is being stacked in its favor.

State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, said treating tuition rates as a question of border security was also an affront to undocumented students pursuing college degrees.

“Referring in-state tuition repeal to border security is implying these students are threats to the country, when in fact they are trying to contribute to the country,” he said. “It is a disservice for this bill to be heard in border security.”

Monday’s hearing was scheduled on Wednesday, a week after a similar bill, SB 1429 by state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, was referred to the Senate’s State Affairs Committee. But as of Thursday, Hall’s bill hadn’t been scheduled for a hearing. (Patrick’s office declined to shed light on why Campbell’s bill was referred to the subcommittee and immediately considered.)

But while the measure is likely to easily pass the Senate, it may meet more resistance in the House.

[…]

When the session began in January, state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, said he supports the current policy despite the political firestorm it’s caused. On Wednesday, Zerwas, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, said debating the policy is healthy, but he still stands behind it.

If SB 1819 passes the Senate, Zerwas said it likely won’t be referred to his committee but instead the House Committee on State Affairs. The chairman of that committee, state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, said his support for the current policy is double-tiered.

“Number one, Texas made a commitment to these students, and as Texans we should honor our word,” he said. “Additionally, it would seem to me that having educated young people is much more productive for the economy of the state.”

Good for you, Reps. Zerwas and Cook. As for Donna Campbell, she’s doing her best to become Debbie Riddle 2.0. Details for Monday’s hearing are here; it was originally scheduled for last Monday but was postponed for a week. If it’s at all possible for you to be there and voice your opposition, please do so.

Tuition re-regulation on the menu

There are different ways it could go.

Sen. Charles Schwertner

Tuition at Texas universities has more than doubled in the 12 years since state lawmakers authorized colleges to set their own rates.

Now legislators are pushing to take back that control. It’s not a new idea, but it stands a chance for the first time since 2003, when the state deregulated tuition, largely because it enjoys rare bipartisan support.

At least three lawmakers, including Houston Democrat Sen. Rodney Ellis, have filed bills to re-regulate tuition in some way. The chair of the Senate’s higher education committee Kel Seliger, an Amarillo Republican, plans to pitch tying tuition increases to performance by colleges – essentially making them earn a tuition bump. And Dan Patrick, the state’s new lieutenant governor, said last week that the “issue will be addressed this session.”

“It marries together Democrats, who want to make higher education more affordable, and tea party conservatives who are inherently suspicious of higher education,” Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said. “In some ways this is a way for the Legislature to do something about education, but with relatively low cost.”

[…]

Deregulation essentially transferred costs to the universities and their students. That’s something Texas and other states have done for decades.

A recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office says students are now paying public colleges more than the states are. Tuition accounted for 25 percent of the average public colleges’ revenue in 2012, up from 17 percent in 2003, the study found. That surpassed state funding, which accounted for 23 percent of schools’ budgets in 2012.

Texas now funds less than 20 percent of the University of Texas at Austin’s budget, for example, compared to 85 percent in the 1970s. State funding accounts for 22 percent of UH’s budget now, compared to 61 percent in 1985. Students now pay for 42 percent of the budget, compared to 11 percent 30 years ago.

[…]

While Ellis says he will advocate for additional funding for higher education, his bill to end deregulation is actually the stricter of the two senate bills that have been filed so far, because it would cap tuition at 2015 rates and require universities to get legislative approval to raise it. Mary González, a House Democrat from Clint, has proposed a similar bill.

The other Senate bill, by Schwertner, would allow for annual tuition increases based on inflation. Ellis and Schwertner have talked about finding a compromise bill, but Ellis said last week that he wouldn’t support inflation-based increases, which he said is “almost like institutionalizing the thievery from middle class families.”

The third possible route to re-regulation could fold in another popular higher education proposal: tying funding for universities to performance measures such as graduation rates. Seliger said he plans to file a bill that would tie tuition increases to those performance measures. He calls it “performance-based tuition.”

Seliger pointed out that while tuition has increased at a faster clip since deregulation, lawmakers weren’t doing much to keep it down before. From 1994 to 2002, tuition and fees went up 102 percent.

“It was still increasing at a pretty good rate, because people wanted to see universities make big increases in improvement,” he said.

See here for the background. Sen. Schwertner’s bill is SB233. Neither Sens. Ellis nor Seliger have filed their bills yet, but Sen. Ellis’ bill from 2013 was SB125; I would presume what he files this year is identical or almost identical to it. I prefer his approach, because the problem is that the state is not contributing enough to cover the cost of higher education. That was the deal made to cut costs in 2003; it was rotten then, and it’s rotten now. I don’t expect Sen. Ellis’ approach to be adopted, but now that Republicans have come to regret their past actions – most likely because they’ve finally started hearing it from their constituents – I have some hope that he and Sen. Schwertner can work out a deal that at least comes closer to his approach.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, Sen. Ellis’ bill is SB255.

Rallying to save the Texas DREAM Act

It won’t be easy.

With a new Texas legislative session underway and incoming state leaders indicating a desire to repeal the Texas Dream Act, supporters of the law are gearing up for a renewed fight to keep it in place.

A group of about 60 students, businessmen and legislators gathered on the south steps of the Texas Capitol on Wednesday to voice their support for the act, which allows undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition after graduating from high school if they have lived in Texas for three years and have signed an affidavit promising to seek legal residency.

State Rep. Ana Hernandez, D-Houston, a former undocumented immigrant who benefited from the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, was one of several speakers with a personal connection to the issue.

“I know that measures like [the Texas Dream Act] and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 can change a young adult’s life path, as it did mine,” she said.

[…]

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, has introduced legislation to repeal the Texas Dream Act. Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick said he wants to end the act, and Gov.-elect Greg Abbott has indicated he wouldn’t veto any repeal efforts. Patrick and others have characterized the Dream Act as a reward and incentive for illegal immigration.

At Wednesday’s rally, Bill Hammond, the CEO of the Texas Association of Businesses — which endorsed Patrick for lieutenant governor but has opposed him on this issue — spoke about the economic and social impact of the law.

“They work hard, they go to school, they graduate, they do what we want them to do,” Hammond said. “They will be the future teachers, doctors, architects, engineers in Texas if we allow this program to continue.”

Just as a reminder, the Texas DREAM Act was passed in 2001 with near-unanimous support in both chambers. Times may or may not have changed, but the Republican Party sure has. As for Hammond, he and and his group are going to spend a lot of time fighting the candidates they endorsed on multiple issues. You’d think they’d eventually get tired of that, but I guess a corollary to the definition of insanity is that you believe that this time you really will get a different outcome. (The same problem exists in Congress, too, but, well, you know.) This session is going to be all about what the Republicans want to do, and what (if anything) anyone can do to stop them. Sure hope you kept your receipts on these guys, Bill. Stace, the Observer, the DMN, and Texas Politics have more.

What can you get for $10,000?

You can now get a college degree – at some colleges, in some programs, if you’re lucky.

Many were skeptical when Gov. Rick Perry last year challenged Texas public colleges and universities to offer degrees costing no more than $10,000.

Now 14 institutions have embraced the concept, which Perry sees as a promising way to rein in college costs and increase access.

Several schools began offering bargain degrees this fall, and others are scheduled to start programs next year, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, a cheerleader for the concept.

“We’ve really been a bully pulpit to look at ways to bend the cost curve in terms of tuition and fees,” board spokesman Dominic Chavez said. “We articulate it as a challenge. Ten thousand dollars is a goal. Let’s see how many programs we can get for affordable pathways.”

In-state tuition and fees in Texas have increased by 90 percent in eight years.

The average cost was about $7,300 per year in 2011-12.

[…]

“Our concern is that the idea of the $10,000 degree is diverting attention from the very real conversation about rising costs that must happen among all the members of the higher-education community,” said Ann McGlashan, an associate professor of German and Russian at Baylor University and president of the Texas Conference of the American Association of University Professors.

Texas and other states have dramatically cut higher-education money over the years, forcing tuition up. Now political leaders want to put pressure on universities to reverse the trend while ignoring cost-cutting measures they have already taken, said Dan Hurley, director of state relations for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

“While we support the idea, the $10,000 mark is an artificially set figure,” Hurley said. “To deliver a college education at or below that mark is a little too elementary, given all the dynamics at play. It gets folks excited, but it’s not a sophisticated approach to encouraging system performance.”

[…]

Baylor’s McGlashan said students eligible for $10,000 degrees often have attended well-funded high-schools that offer many dual-credit and Advanced Placement classes that give them a head start.

“It also targets those who know very early on what they want to do with their lives,” she said.

“We need to be talking about the students who don’t have these advantages and what can be done to bring down costs for them. It’s time to put everything on the table and think outside the box.”

I have not paid close attention to this piece of policy from Rick Perry, partly because I don’t take policy ideas from him seriously, and partly because there’s only so many things I can pay close attention to at one time. If this becomes a viable option for a significant number of students, then I will give him credit for it, however grudgingly. I just want to point out that getting a degree at any of the flagship public universities in Texas used to be a pretty affordable proposition, back before tuition was deregulated by Perry and Tom Craddick and the rest of the Republican legislature in 2003, in response to the first budget crisis faced during Perry’s tenure. A Google search for “University of Texas tuition 2003” led me to this page, which told me that the Undergraduate Flat-Rate Tuition Fall 2002 / Spring 2003 (per semester) at UT was $2,357.00 for College of Liberal Arts, and $2,504.00 for College of Natural Sciences. That’s per semester, so you’d be looking at about $20K in tuition over four years, and of course there’s still room and board and books and transportation, all of which students in the $10K Degree program would need to pay for as well. In return you’d have gotten a degree in the program of your choice at UT, not too shabby a deal if you ask me. The reason in-state tuition has increased so much in the past eight years – that is, since tuition deregulation became the law of the land – is because eight years ago the state greatly scaled back its financial support for public universities, and gave those universities the burden and the freedom to make up the difference by charging more. Point being, if we’d never deregulated in the first place but instead continued the long tradition of supporting public higher education in Texas, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today. Let’s not lose sight of that.

How does college tuition in Texas compare to other states?

In a previous post, John left the following comment:

Out of curiosity how much does a year at UT/A&M cost? How does that compare to Ohio St/Michigan/Cal/UVA/Washington etc. I would think this is a good time to do the revenue side and charge more for tuition if UT is still fairly inexpensive relative to other state schools.

I thought that was a fair question, so I decided to take a look into it. Let’s start by seeing how much one semester’s worth of tuition is at the University of Texas and at Texas A&M. First, for UT:

The tuition charged is in part dependent on the amount of state support received by the institution. In the early 1970s the state paid for nearly 85 percent of the cost of running the educational side of The University of Texas at Austin. Today, the state-appropriated fraction of the total budget for UT Austin is below 20 percent. The growing gap between what it costs to run the university and what the state is able to contribute has been covered in part by private donations, efficiency and other actions taken by the university. However, if the university is to maintain delivery of the quality of education for which it has become known, it determined it had to ask the students attending the university to pay for an increasing share of that gap. The University of Texas at Austin’s tuition places it well below tuition at comparable universities, and the university continues to be a nationally recognized great value in higher education.

If you look at that page, you will see that one semester tuition, for a resident student ranges from $4,493 for the Liberal Arts college to $5,163 for the Business program. Next, there’s A&M:

The cost of attending Texas A&M University can vary, depending on a student’s classification, residency status, personal needs and spending habits. Where the course is taught will also affect cost. Below are estimates to provide a reasonable idea of what it will cost to take a course or courses. The most current rates and information available at the time of publishing are used, and are subject to change.

You then have to look here for the current year. As with UT, there’s a range of tuition costs, for one semester tuition, 12-18 credit hours, from $4,193 for non-business programs to $4,803 for business.

So how do they stack up against peer institutions? To answer that question, I looked at two different groups of peers – a selection of public schools from the Association of American Universities, of which UT is a member, and the non-Texas schools that currently comprise the Big XII. Note that there is some overlap between the two – the University of Colorado, for example, is a member of both. A few words about my methodology before we begin:

– I only looked at tuition, for one semester. Some schools print tuition rates for the nine month (i.e., fall through spring) academic year – I simply divided that by two and rounded up to the next dollar for simplicity. Some present rates per credit hour – in those cases, I assumed 15 credit hours for a semester.

– I only used resident tuition rates. In all cases, non-resident tuition was between double and triple the non-resident rate. Since residents’ taxes support the public universities, that seems fair enough.

– All other costs – room and board, books, various fees – were left out of this calculation. For what it’s worth, my eyeball estimate of room and board was that it pretty consistently fell into the $7,500 to $10,000 range for the year. I didn’t bother looking at anything else. Note that for UC-Berkeley, tuition is called a fee, for reasons that escape me.

– Some schools have one flat rate, others have different rates for different programs, as UT and A&M do. In those cases, I reported the range as above. Generally speaking, programs like liberal arts, fine arts, journalism, and nursing fell on the lower end, and programs like business, engineering, architecture, and computer science fell on the higher end.

– Some schools charge more for upperclassmen than they do for freshmen and sophomores. In those cases, I reported the frosh/soph rates.

I think that about covers it. So without further ado, here are some AAU schools:

The University of Michigan

One semester tuition: Ranges from $5,824 to $8,087, depending on the program.

The University of Virginia

One semester tuition: $5,418 (Note: Page lists full year tuition costs.)

The Ohio State University

One semester tuition: $4,760 (Note: Page lists full year tuition costs.)

The University of North Carolina

One semester tuition: $3,182 (Note: Page lists full year tuition costs.)

The University of California at Berkeley

One semester tuition: $5,469 (Note: Page lists full year tuition costs, which is for some reason labeled “Fees”.)

For what it’s worth, in Googling Cal’s tuition, I came across this NYT story from March of 2010 that calls Call “still a bargain” and notes that its annual tuition had gone up quite a bit, from about $7700 to over $10K, in recent years due to budget shortfalls.

The State University of New York

One semester tuition: $2,485 (Note: Page lists full year tuition costs.)

There are many SUNY campuses, some of which are AAU members and some of which are not. I simply Googled “SUNY tuition”, I did not specify a campus. Far as I can tell, it’s uniform across the system.

The University of Indiana

One semester tuition: $4,062 (Spring 2011)

Michigan State University

One semester tuition: $5,861 (Note: Page lists full year tuition costs.)

The University of Florida

One semester tuition: $2,510

The University of Washington

One semester tuition: $4,351

Putting this group into a chart for easy reading, using the lowest rates from the schools that had ranges:

School Tuition ======================== SUNY $2,485 Florida $2,510 North Carolina $3,182 Indiana $4,062 A&M $4,193 Washington $4,351 UT $4,493 Ohio State $4,760 Virginia $5,418 Cal-Berkeley $5,469 Michigan $5,824

Pretty much in the middle, as things stand now – in fact, A&M is just about smack-dab in between SUNY and Michigan. Bear in mind that this is before any tuition increases, which could be as much as $1,000 for a year, or $500 for a semester.

Now on to the Big XII schools:

The University of Oklahoma

One semester tuition: $3,927 (Note: Page lists full year tuition costs.)

Oklahoma State University

One semester tuition: $2,051 (Calculated as 15 hours of Undergraduate Tuition.)

The University of Nebraska

One semester tuition: $3,656 (Note: Page lists full year tuition costs.)

The University of Missouri

One semester tuition: $3,684 (Calculated as 15 hours of Undergraduate Tuition.)

The University of Kansas

One semester tuition: $3,937

Kansas State University

One semester tuition: $3,114

The University of Colorado

One semester tuition ranges from $3,509 to $5,610, depending on the program.

Iowa State University

One semester tuition: $3,326 (Note: Page lists full year tuition costs.)

Now let’s update that chart:

School Tuition ======================== Oklahoma State $2,051 SUNY $2,485 Florida $2,510 Kansas State $3,114 North Carolina $3,182 Iowa State $3,326 Colorado $3,509 Nebraska $3,656 Missouri $3,684 Oklahoma $3,927 Kansas $3,937 Indiana $4,062 A&M $4,193 Washington $4,351 UT $4,493 Ohio State $4,760 Virginia $5,418 Cal-Berkeley $5,469 Michigan $5,824

Compared to their athletic peers, UT and A&M are already the two most expensive schools, and they’re about to become more so.

So there you have it. I don’t know if this changes anyone’s mind, but at least now you have a basis for comparison.

Cutting TEXAS grants

Paying for college keeps getting harder for a lot of people in Texas.

Each year since 2003, the TEXAS grant program has had more applicants than it’s been able to help.

In 2009, lawmakers added $110 million to the program. But with an anticipated shortfall of up to $18 billion in the next two-year budget, total university financial aid could be up for as much as $108 million in cuts.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, author of the legislation that created the TEXAS grant, said such cuts could turn back the clock on the gains the state has made over the past several years.

Under the proposed cuts, two out of every three eligible students who applied would not get the TEXAS grants. During the 2011-12 academic year, 56,000 community college and university students are expected to apply, and there would only be enough money for 18,700.

Most of the money will have to be devoted to maintaining help for students who have already been awarded two- or four-year grants.

“In our struggling economy, the last thing we need to be doing is setting up roadblocks for those seeking to obtain a postsecondary education,” said Ellis, D-Houston.

State Rep. Dan Branch, who chairs the House Higher Education subcommittee, said there are reasons to feel optimistic because of the Legislature’s demonstrated priority for financial aid.

“Ultimately, it’s not only an investment in human capital, it’s an economic development,” said Branch, R-Dallas. “The opportunity to break out and make a higher income ultimately brings in tax revenue.”

He said, however, that in the middle of a tough budget cycle, it’s hard to make promises or think of adding more monies to the program. Lawmakers have said they may limit scholarships to students with better academic records to save money during the upcoming session.

You can talk all you want about how good an investment this is, but if keeping Dan Patrick’s taxes low is a higher priority, then it’s all just talk. We could properly fund the TEXAS grants program, and many other programs, if we wanted to. Budget shortfall or not, we do what we choose to do. Part of the issue with the TEXAS grants is the same as the problem with the Texas Tomorrow Fund, which is that the decision made by the Lege and the Republican leadership in 2003 to deregulate tuition has made college that much more expensive. Whatever we decide to do next year, we’ll be feeling the effects long after that.

College for $99 a month

Behold the future of higher education.

StraighterLine is the brainchild of a man named Burck Smith, an Internet entrepreneur bent on altering the DNA of higher education as we have known it for the better part of 500 years. Rather than students being tethered to ivy-covered quads or an anonymous commuter campus, Smith envisions a world where they can seamlessly assemble credits and degrees from multiple online providers, each specializing in certain subjects and—most importantly—fiercely competing on price. Smith himself may be the person who revolutionizes the university, or he may not be. But someone with the means and vision to fundamentally reorder the way students experience and pay for higher education is bound to emerge.

In recent years, Americans have grown accustomed to living amid the smoking wreckage of various once-proud industries—automakers bankrupt, brand-name Wall Street banks in ruins, newspapers dying by the dozen. It’s tempting in such circumstances to take comfort in the seeming permanency of our colleges and universities, in the notion that our world-beating higher education system will reliably produce research and knowledge workers for decades to come. But this is an illusion. Colleges are caught in the same kind of debt-fueled price spiral that just blew up the real estate market. They’re also in the information business in a time when technology is driving down the cost of selling information to record, destabilizing lows.

In combination, these two trends threaten to shake the foundation of the modern university, in much the same way that other seemingly impregnable institutions have been torn apart. In some ways, the upheaval will be a welcome one. Students will benefit enormously from radically lower prices—particularly people like Solvig who lack disposable income and need higher learning to compete in an ever-more treacherous economy. But these huge changes will also seriously threaten the ability of universities to provide all the things beyond teaching on which society depends: science, culture, the transmission of our civilization from one generation to the next.

It’s a fascinating read, part awesome and part scary. Or maybe it’s just a whole lot of hype and doesn’t really mean much.

The stories of working people putting themselves through accelerated degree programs through self-study are inspiring, and all, but there’s nothing really new here. There has never really been any question about whether hard-working and motivated students could learn at their own pace– these stories pre-date the Internet. The history of science is full of brilliant auto-didacts who learned their subject from public libraries and the like, and anybody who has spent any time in higher education has encountered somebody who was self-taught or home-schooled who blew away all their peers.

The question has always been whether self-paced online education can work on a mass scale– for people who aren’t motivated to put in 18 hours a day studying toward a specific goal. I don’t really see anything in the article that addresses that question. I think this has the potential to be a great deal for people with a strong sense of self-motivation and good work ethic, but I suspect they’ll end up making lots of money off people who start classes, and then lose interest, but never get around to officially dropping out.

Check it out and decide for yourself. Thanks to Steve Benen for the link.

Tuition reregulation passes the Senate

Off to the House.

The Texas Senate unanimously approved legislation today that would sharply restrict the ability of public university governing boards to raise tuition. The measure now goes to the House.

Lawmakers granted boards of regents virtually unfettered authority in 2003 to control tuition. Increases since then have prompted something of a legislative backlash.

Some lawmakers wanted to withdraw all tuition-setting power from regents. Others had proposed a temporary moratorium on increases.
Senate Bill 1443, whose primary author is Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would allow governing boards to raise tuition, mandatory fees and course fees at the state’s 35 public universities, but it would strictly limit such increases.

As Floor Pass notes, SB1443 is also supposed to “encourage” the Lege to appropriate more money to higher ed to make up the shortfall, which will be a necessary ingredient to this. We’ll see what the House makes of it.

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story on this.

More Tier I schools

Good news.

The Texas House on Friday voted unanimously on a plan making it easier for the University of Houston to gain elite status by gradually becoming a national “tier-one” research institution.

Houston, the country’s fourth largest city, deserves a public tier one university, said. Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, a member of the House Higher Education Committee.

“A tier-one university will attract that much more in the way of research and all the types of things that you can accomplish when you have tier one status,” she said.

Texas has two public tier-one schools — Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin. The lack of additional elite universities creates enrollment pressures at UT and A&M and causes a net loss each year of 6,000 high-achieving Texas high school graduates who leave for a top-tier university in another state.

Texas has identified seven emerging tier-one universities. Texas Tech, the University of Houston and the University of Texas at Dallas are generally considered in the upper echelon from which the next tier one university will emerge, said House Higher Education Chairman Dan Branch, R-Dallas, author of HB 51, which requires Senate action before it heads to Gov. Rick Perry.

A Legislative Study Group report (PDF) from last year showed that those seven schools weren’t all that far off financially from meeting Tier I status. If the Lege budgets the $50 million Rep. Branch mentions for this bill, that would help a couple of them get there. There’s a lot more that can and should be done, but this is a good first step. I’ve got a press release from Rep. Garnet Coleman on the House passage of HB51 beneath the fold, and Postcards has more.

In related news, the Senate Higher Education Committee took action on the matter of tuition.

Senate Bill 1443, by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who chairs the panel, would limit increases in tuition and mandatory fees at the 35 institutions in various ways depending on a school’s current charges, recent increases and other circumstances. The limits include the inflation rate, 5 percent, $315 a year and $630 a year. The amount of legislative appropriations is also factored into the calculations.

That’s a key, as I’ve said before. We deregulated tuition so the state could cut its appropriations to the schools. We can’t now turn around and limit their ability to set tuition if we don’t make up the funding. I don’t know if SB1443 is adequate to that task, but at least it takes the need into account.

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