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Summary: HB 29 seeks to change the current law by requiring certain "general academic teaching institutions" other than "state public colleges" to provide a four year fixed tuition rate to traditional undergraduate students and transfer students. For students who start school during the fall or spring semester, their tuition will not increase during the following four years. For those students who start school during the summer, their tuition rate will not exceed the following fall rate for the next four years. The specified types of institutions included and excluded are defined under Texas Education Code 61.003. All of the institutions included are public higher education institutions.
The universities must inform students about the fixed rate option and students have to decide whether they want to participate in the fixed tuition rate or yearly rate. The tuition rates are not variable and if students change degree programs while in school, their rate does not change based on the degree to which they transfer. The fees for students who have opted for the fixed plan are the same as the yearly rate students.
If students are still pursuing their degree in the fifth year, the tuition rate does not exceed the rate associated with the second year of their degree. Once a student receives a degree, the fixed tuition rate is obsolete.
Lastly, if passed by the Legislature, students who start school in 2014 or after can participate. The fixed tuition plan will expire on January 1, 2020.
Analysis: HB 29 functions within a legitimate role of government by allowing the state to freeze tuition rates at public institutions in an effort to reduce costs for students. This legislation gives students the concrete information needed to determine the cost of their degree plan; therefore, providing students and their parents with more certainty in planning for the cost of college. Furthermore, HB 29 will incentivize students to complete their education in a timely manner, decreasing the cost burden for students and taxpayers. Lastly, the fixed tuition rate will function as a competitive trigger, causing universities to set fixed and yearly rates that are attractive to students. We support HB 29.