Despite a mandated 5 percent cut — or $5.5 million — in state funding, UTPA’s budget addresses essential needs and provides for focused improvements.
A combination of enrollment growth, expenditure reductions and adjustment of tuition and fee rates have enabled the institution to address the cut in state funding and provided the flexibility necessary for continued institutional development.
Beginning Fall 2010, the undergraduate designated tuition rate — the rate set by the University — will increase from $97 to $106.09 per semester credit hour (SCH), and the graduate designated tuition rate will increase from $101.70 to $110.79 per SCH. Designated tuition will continue to be capped 14 SCHs to encourage students to enroll in more than 14 hours.
Although UTPA is the 10th largest public university in the state, it maintains one of the lowest academic costs, ranking 30th out of 34 institutions in tuition as of Fall 2009. The average cost, including all tuition and fees, for 15 credit hours for one semester will be, depending on specific courses, about $2,904 beginning Fall 2010.
The budget includes a $1.8 million increase in employer contributions toward group health insurance to maintain a quality plan. The spending plan also raises the annual designated tuition set-aside for student financial assistance by $843,322 to $5 million and allocates $109,000 for faculty promotions. Also included are increases for assisting migrant students and for the employee education benefit program. To further improve customer service, additional funding for the University's call center is provided.
Importantly, the budget incorporates support of emerging programs such as master's degrees in chemistry, engineering management, creative writing, and physician assistant studies as well as bachelor's degrees in rehabilitative services, computer engineering, environmental studies, and a doctoral degree in rehabilitation counseling. This support includes a modest addition of six and a half faculty positions. "I am pleased to be able to say that we have a balanced budget in spite of the mandated reductions," said UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen.
Dr. Nelsen went on to explain that the balanced budget came at a price.
“There were no substantial increases in the number of faculty needed to better accommodate enrollment growth, nor were merit raises provided for employees," he said. "Our faculty and staff deserved those raises, and I admire their understanding of the sacrifices needed at this time.”
Nelsen emphasized that the budget developed is student-based, safeguarding UTPA’s instructional mission.
By not including merit raises in the budget, the University hopes to avoid layoffs during FY 2011, said James Langabeer, vice president for the Division of Business Affairs.
“The omission of merit pay was perhaps the most difficult of many tough decisions that had to be made during the budget preparation process,” Langabeer said.
Langabeer went on to point out that to minimize the negative impact on students, faculty and staff, officials developed the FY 2011 budget assuming a flat student enrollment. There is great uncertainty, however. Already, the state has asked the institution to include plans for a 10-percent reduction in its Legislative appropriations request for the upcoming biennium starting FY 2012.
The conservative approach used for the FY 2011 budget will better position the institution for the future.
For more information about The University of Texas System's operating budget for the 2011 fiscal year, visit http://www.utsystem.edu/News/files/2011BudgetSummary.pdf.