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Tuition changes open new doors

This time, the dice rolled favorably for local two-year students.

The Texas State University System Board of Regents last Friday OK’d a change downward in tuition and fees for students at Lamar State College Port Arthur, Lamar State College Orange and Lamar Institute of Technology. How rare is that?

News unfolded first during a telephone meeting for the regents, in which they OK’d using $17.3 million in newly appropriated state funds to reduce tuition and fees at these local two-year campuses, funding that will last for this biennium. The money was appropriated in the recently concluded legislative term.

Mike Wintemute, TSUS deputy vice chancellor for marketing and communications, said regents set tuition and fees per semester a year in advance. In the case of Lamar Port Arthur, Lamar Orange and LIT, that meant tuition and fees were set a year ago at the follow rates for next year: Lamar Port Arthur, $3,056.37; $2,685 at Lamar Orange; $2,898.50 at LIT.

But that infusion of $17.3 million gave those campuses the leeway to lower tuition and fees, making their schools more marketable in comparison to Texas state-supported community colleges and positioning these campuses as more plausible alternatives to state four-year campuses. The new tuition and fees are:

  • Lamar Port Arthur: $2,165.55, a drop of 29 percent
  • Lamar Orange: $1,995, a drop of 26 percent
  • LIT: $2,200, a drop of 24 percent

That’s a lot of savings. For students who are weighing the choice between starting a four-year college program at the two-year schools, then transferring, or paying higher, four-year campus tuition for all four years, lower tuitions and fees locally should be attractive.

For students weighing two-year programs, the savings are substantial and in place for two years, starting in the fall.

While the base tuition and fees for the three Golden Triangle campuses are all set at $1,995, slight differences in fees are based on services offered at the individual campuses.

Here’s why the changes involving just these two-year campuses are inherently fair: Lamar Port Arthur, Lamar Orange and LIT draw support from the state and from tuition and fees. State community colleges can also draw support from local property taxes, an avenue for revenue denied to these three campuses.

There’s this, too: Students at the three two-year campuses in the Golden Triangle were challenged — sometimes dramatically — by the flooding during Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey in 2017. Typically, lawmakers said, students at two-year schools, which include many students with family obligations and first-generation college students, are more affected by such economic setbacks. Oftentimes, enrollment decreases follow such events.

Texas legislators, regents and campus leaders have done students great service, opening to them through these reductions new doors to higher education. At the least, students should peer inside.