DALLAS — The University of North Texas Board of Regents voted to establish undergraduate tuition guarantee plans Tuesday.
The meeting at the University of North Texas at Dallas was called ostensibly to name Wayne State University Provost Ronald T. Brown the president of UNT-Dallas.
After Brown was named president, regents discussed the undergraduate tuition guarantee plans and approved an increase to the student services fee.
Tuition guarantee plans would offer a fixed tuition rate to undergraduate students who are taking a full course load and plan to graduate in four years.
“We’ve discussed this idea for the past several years,” UNT Chancellor Lee Jackson said.
The Denton and Dallas campuses, which both have undergraduate students, have been working on what the plans would look like for their students.
What the regents approved Tuesday was not the actual plans but gave the campuses permission to move forward in establishing those plans. The board will review the plans once they are established and then vote on whether or not to approve them.
Lane Rawlins, president of the Denton campus, said officials from his campus have been in discussions with officials at the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Texas at El Paso, which both offer this type of plan.
It is also being discussed during the current legislative session.
By moving forward, it sends a message to the Texas Legislature that UNT has a plan, Jackson told regents.
He said he hopes the lawmakers will still allow each university to tailor a program to fit its students’ needs.
UNT plans to offer undergraduate tuition guarantee plans even if the lawmakers don’t require it, Jackson said.
The plans would be offered in the fall 2014.
“The benefit [of the plans] is it will increase retention,” Rawlins said.
But Rawlins also cautioned regents of potential dangers of this type of plan. Tuition is one of UNT’s two major sources of funding, he said. The other source is state appropriations.
The reason tuition has been increasing is because state appropriations have gone down, Rawlins said.
He said he’d like the state to make a guarantee that it won’t cut funding if universities put tuition guarantee plans in place, but he said that’s not likely to happen.
Rawlins said UNT should put an “escape clause” into the plan so that if the state ever did pull its funding, the university could change tuition rates.
Regent Al Silva said he hopes the campuses come up with innovative plans.
“I hope we really do well by students,” he said.
During the meeting, regents also voted to approve an increase of $1.30 to the student services fee, which funds programs and services such as campus activities, counseling, career advising and academic assistance resources that don’t receive funding from the state.
The increase from $13.10 per semester credit hour to $14.41 per semester credit hour would generate about $1.2 million a year.
The item was brought before the board in February, but regents wanted more information.
Regent Don Potts expressed concerns about increasing student costs again during Tuesday’s meeting.
“I consider this to be an investment,” Rawlins said in response to Potts’ concerns.
Brown to lead UNT-Dallas
Before regents voted on the tuition guarantee plans and the student services fee, they named Brown president of UNT-Dallas.
Brown was named the sole finalist in February. Under Texas law, the regents must name a finalist at least 21 days before making an appointment.
Brown, who is currently provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Wayne State University in Detroit, said it was an exciting day.
“It’s a great city and a great university,” he said.
Brown has several goals for the university, including supporting student programs, promoting experiential learning, implementing new technology, offering individual education plans for students, developing programs in health and life sciences, and offering residence halls of some type.
“There are a lot of things to be able to build upon and do,” Brown said.
He said being the president of a young university is an opportunity to help the university decide what it will be and what it will become.
Brown’s appointment will be effective July 1.
John Ellis Price, the current president of the Dallas campus, announced in July 2012 that he would be stepping down when his contract ends. He is the first president of UNT-Dallas, which was given the authority to operate independently as the 38th public university in Texas in 2010.
Jackson said every university is ready to go to the next stage of development and it’s particularly important for a young university like UNT-Dallas.
“It’s a great opportunity for someone who has a lot of ideas,” Jackson said.
He said Brown will help the university implement ideas that have been in development for the past decade as UNT-Dallas was being developed.
At that point, Jackson said, there was no land and no building, but there was a community aspiration to build a university.
“We’ve spent 10 years getting to this point,” he said.
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter @rmehlhaff.