El PASO, Texas — Economic woes in Texas are forcing public universities to raise tuition fees, but educators are struggling to keep higher education affordable.
“We are working to provide the accessibility needed for those who do not have the financial freedom to pay for school,” said Congressman Ruben Hinojosa (D –TX), speaking at the University of Texas at El Paso, September 8.
There are already programs in place to help students who cannot afford to go to college, such as the Health Care and Higher Education Reconciliation program that was signed into law in March. “It is good for students, taxpayers, and American jobs. The result of this law will be more college graduates,” Hinojosa said.
Students have to know that before they deny themselves the opportunity of going to school because of their economic status, they can always look for funds, grants and loans, according to Pat Witherspoon, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at UTEP.
“The first thing that I would recommend is for students who need money to go to college, to go to our office of financial assistance and look at all the various opportunities,” she said.
Another way students can reduce costs is participation in a current loan forgiveness program that cuts 25 per cent of a student loan, allowing the debt to be paid off within five years, Hinojosa said. “This will promote higher education. We want students to continue their education beyond their bachelors,” he said.
Tuition has gone up in all of the Texas public universities. The University of Texas at Austin increased tuition this fall by 5.4 percent to an average of $4,709 per semester. Tuition at UTEP increased by 4.4 percent to $3,324 this fall semester. Despite tuition increases, the cost of attending UTEP continues to be more affordable, when compared to other Texas public universities.
“Though tuition has gone up here, it certainly hasn’t gone up as it has in other universities throughout the state,” Witherspoon said, “But having said that of course, we never like to raise the tuition beyond where students are able to pay,” she said.
“The economy is a process and it is not just going to rebuild from one day to another. It is the same with education. It’s going to take time, but we will get there,” said Hinojosa.