One of the charges leveled at universities is that tuition is skyrocketing. While it is true that tuition has increased at a greater rate than inflation over the past several years, it is also true that state funding per student has fallen at the same time. In fact, for the vast majority of public universities, the net result of these two opposing trends (rising tuition and falling state funding per student) has been a decrease in actual total revenue per student, resulting in most of us doing more with less.
Take UT Tyler as an example. In 2002, our university received $10,967 in state funding per student. Add to that our net tuition revenue per student of $2,404, and our total revenue per student was $13,371. Fast-forward to 2011, and state funding per student was $6,238 while net tuition revenue was $4,586 per student, giving us a total of $10,824. Therefore, even though tuition went up, UT Tyler’s actual total revenue decreased by over $2,500 per student. Multiply that decline in revenue per student by our enrollment, and we are looking at something like $12 million fewer dollars in our budget.
Universities understand the financial challenges facing families today, and we are certainly willing to do our part to “tighten our belts.” However, like any business, we must maintain a reasonable level of revenue in order to produce a quality product.
Studies continue to show that a college degree is a good investment. In an article published just last month by the United States Census Bureau, researchers calculated — once again — that workers with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of one million dollars more over the course of their careers than those with only a high school diploma. These additional earnings more than cover the costs of completing a degree.
The advantages of a college degree don’t stop at higher salaries. A recent Pew Research Center study showed that college graduates suffer less when the economy takes a down turn. For example, in March 2010, the unemployment rate of college graduates was 5 percent while those without a bachelor’s degree faced an 11 percent unemployment rate. This unemployment rate gap has persisted for many decades and through multiple ups and downs of the economy.
Preparing students for gainful employment upon graduation is an area in which UT Tyler excels. Our nursing graduates boast a 95 percent pass rate on the state licensing exam, while our nurse practitioners earn an even better pass rate at 100 percent. Our education graduates are highly successful, too, with a 94 percent pass rate on the teacher certification exam. Perhaps because of these stellar performances, 90 percent of UT Tyler graduates have jobs or have been accepted to graduate school before they graduate — even in the current tough economy.
The higher education community has much to be proud of. We are providing students the skills and credentials necessary to give them the best opportunity to succeed. I invite anyone who feels differently to come visit UT Tyler and see our great university at work.