Board of Regents meets, approves president and discusses tuition

Board of Regents meets, approves president and discusses tuition

Board of Regents meets, approves president and discusses tuition
December 12
12:16 2013

Joshua Knopp / Senior Staff Writer

Board confirms new president

The board of trustees confirmed Neal Smatresk as UNT’s next president today. He will take over for V. Lane Rawlins on Feb. 2.

Smatresk has been the president of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas for the past five years, where he helped guide the university through fallout from the 2008 recession.

V. Lane Rawlins said he was excited to have the opportunity to step back and happy with the university’s choice.

“I think we’re very fortunate to get a person with such experience and also someone who loves Texas,” he said. “Everybody who has worked with him everywhere likes him. I think he’s the man for us.”

Dec. 5

Board discusses tuition, new degrees

Outgoing president V. Lane Rawlins delivered a proposal on Dec. 5 that would raise tuition by 4.5 percent each year over the next four years while offering incoming freshmen an unchanging, guaranteed rate.

The new rate for freshman would only be 10 percent higher than it is right now. Incoming freshmen that opt into the plan would pay $262 more per hour the first year and $440 less per hour by the end of the plan.

The board heard another proposal from finance and administrative executive Jean Bush and UNT Dallas’ chief financial officer Carlos Hernandez on guaranteed tuition. Neither plan was approved and the board will continue to discuss tuition next semester.

The board also approved three new degree plans — two for UNT Dallas and one PhD-level plan for UNT, which could cost more than $2 million.

Rawlins said he is operating under the assumption that tuition will have to increase for UNT to continue to improve its education because he and the board believe state funding will continue to drop and because incoming students simply associate a higher price tag with a better education.

Since 2002, state funding has gone from 40.5 percent of UNT’s revenue to 21.6 percent in 2012, he said.

“It almost has to go up, because the state keeps withdrawing funds,” he said. “If you want a quality education, it has to come from somewhere.”

Rawlins said increasing tuition, as long as tuition remains comparable to competitors, could actually increase incoming class size and education quality. Graduating seniors associate higher prices with a better education, Rawlins said, also noting a similar phenomenon with admission requirements.

Since UNT raised its minimum SAT scores, incoming freshmen classes have increased in size. He thinks that prestige is becoming a more important part of college selection.

“Those are the institutions that people are waiting for. Those are the institutions with the longest line to get into,” he said, referring to schools with higher tuition and stiffer requirements. “The landscape of higher education today, it’s really changed, even within the last decade. There are plenty of low-cost options in our society. Those are the institutions that are having attendance problems.”

The Board of Regents was wary about increasing tuition. Board member Brint Ryan called raising tuition to make ends meet a knee-jerk reaction that makes itself more viable every time a school does it.

“Tuition is like heroin,” he said. “The more you get hooked on it, the easier it is to raise it. If you can just raise tuition with the flick of a pen, it robs you of the incentive of generating those [outside] revenue sources.”

The board also moved to grant chancellor Lee Jackson negotiating powers in two processes. One is to renegotiate Rawlins’ contract, which Jackson plans to extend until Feb. 2, after which president elect Neal Smatresk will take over. The other is on a potential hotel on UNT property west of Interstate 35, just north of Apogee Stadium where the Radisson Hotel used to stand.

Jackson said, ideally, it would be a full-service hotel and conference center on UNT property, though UNT would not own the hotel itself. Jackson aims to negotiate a clause that will allow hospitality management students to get hands-on experience there, a luxury he says many of the best hospitality programs already use.

The construction plan and leasing agreements need to be negotiated with Denton and the developer before anything is certain.

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