A&M Tuition, Fees and Costs Rise

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It's the same old song and dance at A&M and universities across the state. State funding is down, so tuition goes up.

But add in the rising costs of energy, and the pinch grows a bit for students.

The recommendation Monday as delivered by President Robert Gates is for a 6.35 percent tuition increase, amounting to about $130.

But A&M is not immune to the energy cost crisis. With projections of a utility cost spike in the tens of millions, an energy fee of $99 per student appears to be in line for Fiscal Year 2007.

Add in an extra $50 for other student fees like rec sports and student health, and for 2007, the proposal is a 284 dollar increase total in tuition and fees.

It's all in an effort to erase a $32 million budget shortfall, one which the university has taken steps to recently curb with some layoffs and streamlined operating costs.

"I don't know if students will accept it. I think, at this point, they're not going to have a choice," said Jim Carlson, A&M's student body president. "We do everything that we can to ensure students get the financial assistance they need, get the scholarships that might be applicable to their situation."

A&M touted that 75 percent of their students get financial assistance from the university, at an average of $9,600 per year.

The rise in tuition again comes as state funding continues to dwindle. Since Fiscal Year 1992, state funding as a percentage of total current fund operating expenses has decreased from 45 to 27 percent. On the contrary, tuition and fees as a percentage of the total current fund operating expenses has gone from 20 to 33 percent in the same timeframe.

With those numbers, raised tuition and fees are facts students who heard from Dr. Gates Monday were willing to accept.

"It's important to consider inflation," said student Kristina Campbell. "It's important to look at where the money's going, and the reality that sometimes, we will need to increase tuition and fees and what not."

"How they approach setting tuition is very encouraging as well," said student Jennifer Faulkner, "that they don't approach it from a revenue-first end, but look at how they can decrease costs, and then see what they need."

Gates said the energy fee was hopefully a one-time measure to curb soaring costs.

"They know the difference in the price of gas when they pull up to the pump, and I'm driving a whole university up to the pump. That's not natural gas, but the same thing is happening."

The other talking point of Monday afternoon's meeting was the possibility of differential tuition.

It's becoming a fairly common occurrence at universities, with different schools coming forward and requesting higher tuition based on higher costs. The Tuition Policy Advisory Council, or T-PAC, would have to approve.

The Mays Business School has made the initial request, with T-PAC approval already there. Gates is still considering it.

"The costs for a student in history or teaching history are different than being in a science lab or an engineering job or in business," Gates said, "so I think we have to take a close look at this."

"Although I don't want to pay more, I do see how that could directly correlate with increasing the rankings and increased job placement, things of that nature," said business school student Rich Pontious.

"The needs are very different now," Carlson said, "and I applaud the colleges because they've done such a good job in keeping the costs low, but doing such a good job at providing such quality education."

Dr. Gates is awaiting clarification on questions before he makes a decision on differential tuition.