The board also approved a recommendation providing for special exceptions of a maximum 9 percent tuition increase for graduate and professional programs. These exceptions will be determined on a college-by-college basis.
UHS administrators stressed these caps were the upper limit for any increases and there was a preference for not increasing the tuition rates at all, if possible.
The Board of Regents will not vote on any specific tuition rates until the Texas legislature, which is currently in session, finalizes the 2012-13 budget. The board was required to establish a maximum threshold for tuition increases so the UHS would comply with Texas Education Code 54.009, which stipulates that tuition rates and fees cannot be increased after a student registers for a semester or summer term.
"We approved a range for a potential tuition increase, because we have not seen the final state budget," said UHS Board of Regents Chairman Carroll Robertson Ray. "Once the state passes its budget, we will go through the full range of cost saving measures before we look at raising tuition. Only then will the board make a final determination on how tuition will be impacted. Today's vote set the parameters to cover a range of legislative contingencies."
This is the latest step in the tuition and fee process, which began in fall 2010 with the creation of Tuition & Fee Committees at each UHS campus. The committees of students, faculty and staff made recommendations on a maximum tuition increase rates, or the "up to" rate, to the UHS presidents and chancellor. One rate was recommended for all campuses.
The state of Texas is facing a budget shortfall up to $27 billion. The Texas House passed a budget bill earlier this month that proposes $23 billion in cuts. House Bill 1 is now in the Senate. It's unknown how much funding the UH System will lose from the state, but during Tuesday's meeting UHS Chancellor and UH President Renu Khator said all budget decisions would be made using a principle of "students first, tuition last."
"These budget reductions come at the same time as 1,200 new students arrive for us to serve," she said. "We will adhere to our guiding principles and follow our strategic plan, and a tuition increase is one of the last options we will consider after we have exhausted options for creating operational efficiencies and enhancing revenue."