Texas lawmakers to consider tuition freeze

This week, state lawmakers will be back in Austin. Up for discussion, House Bill 105. The bill would freeze tuition at state universities for two years.  Facing a 10 billion dollar shortfall, six years ago lawmakers allowed universities to set their own tuition rates. Now lawmakers and students say tuition has gotten out of hand.

In his lab, Curtis Clark, a graduate student at UT-Tyler usually examines lung cells, but the next few weeks he'll be watching House Bill 105 and while he's not a business major Curtis says he knows the subject of college tuition all too well.  "The notes that they send out, hey tuition is going up this year. Textbooks, I've noticed textbooks are going up now."

When he's not at home studying, Clark works on campus as a lab instructor, giving him a little extra money.  He considers himself lucky, but is quick to point out pulling double duty isn't easy, "Financial considerations are distractions, I mean not only now while I'm in school do I have to make sacrifices, do I buy this textbook or do I spend less time studying and more time working."

While Texas schools keep boosting costs on students like Clark, one East Texas lawmaker says colleges aren't to blame,"Part of the problem with the runaway tuition increases is the fact that the state has not put enough money in higher education." State Senator Kevin Eltife explains, "It's real easy for us to blame the institutions, but the fact of the matter is we as a legislature have got to put more into higher education to get those tuition rates down."

A solution, Clark says could give benefits for years to come, "If they understand that students aren't just part of the business model of the university, they're actually a future investment in the economy, and if they give us a break now we'll be able to devote more of our ideas and knowledge gained in college to the workplace."

Education spending currently consumes 44 percent of the Texas state budget, but only about a quarter of that is related to higher education.

Morgan Chesky, reporting. mchesky@kltv.com