Day: March 8, 2016

Passing the buck on college costs

 

Tuition at state-supported universities is going up – again – and our state leaders are trying to convince us that they actually care. What they actually care about is finding someone other than themselves to blame for the fact that many young people in Texas are being priced out of college degrees – or coming dangerously close.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick each have ordered separate studies of the problem. But the reality is that the statehouse majority, including Abbott and Patrick, are more interested in cutting taxes than they are in adequately funding education – either higher or K-12 – and have been relying on unelected university regents to cover rising college costs with a series of tuition increases.

Since the Legislature in 2003 enacted the tuition deregulation law, which gave regents the authority to set tuition independently of legislative control, the cost of attending public universities in Texas has gone up by 65 percent, adjusted for inflation, while state funding per student has gone down by 27 percent, also adjusted for inflation.

These figures, which come from Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes, were reported by the Houston Chronicle.

Abbott and Patrick weren’t in their current offices when the 2003 law was passed. But they and the legislative majority have been content – maybe eager – to keep passing the buck to the appointed regents while they can brag to their tea party supporters about holding the line on state spending.

Remember, one of Abbott’s and Patrick’s highest priorities during last year’s legislative session was cutting taxes, not realistically addressing the budgetary needs of public schools or universities.

Now, they are ordering studies and expressing concern. Concern, however, won’t pay anyone’s college tab.