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UT regents delay vote on tuition hike for Texans

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday gave University of Texas regents pause on raising tuition for in-state students ahead of discussions that could have bumped the average semester cost at the flagship Austin campus past $5,000.

UT regents Chairman Paul Foster postponed a scheduled vote after hours of testimony from school officials. The move came after Perry sent a letter to Foster earlier Wednesday that signaled his opposition to higher prices for college students.

Regents did approve tuition increases for out-of-state students at all UT campuses, but delayed a decision on rates for in-state residents until next week.

"To put a college degree within reach for more students and to combat the epidemic of student indebtedness, we should put a far greater emphasis on controlling the spiraling cost of a college education," Perry wrote. "Forcing students to bear the brunt of additional costs is not the solution."

Foster said regents needed to discuss how to increase revenues "without putting it on the backs of students." Schools presidents have warned that without more money they risk losing top faculty to competitors.

This marks the second time in two years that Perry has balked at raising rates — is another sign of friction with UT in a long-running battle over affordability and accountability in higher education.

Perry's letter came just two days after a bipartisan Texas House panel found grounds for impeachment against Regent Wallace Hall over efforts to get UT Austin President Bill Powers fired. Hall is accused of improperly launching a one-man investigation against Powers and inundating the UT system in open records requests.

Hall was appointed by Perry in 2011. If impeached, he would be the first governor-appointed official removed from office.

Hall has denied breaking any laws and was back at work Wednesday at the regents meeting.

Regents haven't raised tuition at UT Austin since 2011. Powers sought another increase in 2012 but had that proposal rejected, and Perry at the time called it a "good message" that the state will not ignore economic realities facing families.

UT Austin officials argue that its costs remain some of the lowest compared to similar major public universities. Last fall, the average undergraduate cost per semester for a Texas resident was $4,889.

 

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