There has been a lot of talk about the rising cost of tuition this legislative session. Some point to tuition deregulation as the sole cause of this phenomenon, but many have never heard the facts about the increased operational costs at Texas universities.

State appropriations dedicated to higher education have kept up with both inflation and enrollment growth. However, in 1991, the statewide average operating cost per student was $10,665; by 2007, this number had increased to $17,506. In 16 years, the operating cost per student has increased by 64.1%. With spending increasing so dramatically, one wonders where all this money is going – and after last week’s story on Dallas/Fort Worth’s CBS 11, one would expect a lot more people to be asking.

Universities in Texas are subsidized with taxpayer dollars and have access to additional billions through tuition, fees, donations, grants, and the Available University Fund. Furthermore, higher education institutions are not constrained by any rules for how government money must be spent. For these reasons, universities must be held accountable for their spending.

This session, Representative Kolkhorst authored HB 2504 in an effort to improve transparency in higher education. HB 2504 would make course budgets, curriculum vitae, and syllabi available online to students, parents, and the general public.

Making course budgets public would give taxpayers and students much needed insight into how their money is being spent, as well as encourage universities to spend in a more fiscally responsible manner. In addition to improving fiscal transparency, HB 2504 would also enable students to make more informed decisions when choosing professors and deciding in which courses to enroll.

This bill is a necessary step in the right direction and, if passed, would go a long way to shed light on university spending.

– Elizabeth Young