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Texas Senator grapples with rising tuition rates

by Phil Prazan | KXAN |

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austinites want the local economy to thrive with an educated workforce, but as the cost of college rises some say Texas public universities are getting too expensive.

College student Brian Bounds works part-time as a bartender while attending classes, but the International Relations student has still racked up nearly $40,000 in student loans.

“It’s just a big question mark because I know I need to start paying off these loans,” he said. “Otherwise, I’m going to be in debt for the rest of my life. But at the same time, I wanted to get an education.”

Texas lawmakers de-regulated tuition in 2003 and costs at state universities skyrocketed.

“The policy of de-regulation in the state of Texas has been shown to be a failure,” said Sen. Charles Scwhertner. He says the problem is so bad he filed SB 233. It would freeze tuition rates and fees for a year. Rates would only be allowed to go up with inflation after that, which has recently been around two percent.

“To have an educated workforce we must have access to affordable higher education,” said Schwertner.

The University of Texas at Austin hasn’t raised rates in two years, but other public schools haven’t been as lucky. A report from the comptroller cites a decrease in funds coming from Texas lawmakers as one of the reasons tuition goes up.

Schwertner says the tuition increases have outpaced the funding cuts.

“Tuition is up there. It’s high. It’s getting higher, so those are the challenges we face,’ said Bounds, worrying his debt will put future goals on hold thanks to his expensive public education.

In May, the UT System’s Board of Regents voted against raising in-state tuition for their nine campuses.

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