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UTEP tuition likely to increase by fall semester

By: Genevieve Curtis
EL PASO, Texas -- There's a good chance students at the University of Texas at El Paso will see their tuition increase next fall.

UTEP officials said it is obvious that nobody likes to see the cost of tuition increase, but a large decrease in funding from the state made it almost impossible not to make some sort of change.

UTEP is proposing a 3 percent tuition increase across the board, including graduate, international and out of state students will be affected.

The increase adds up to about $100 per 12 credit hours.

"That's a lot of money. With that (money), I could take another class or put a down payment on a car or something else. So it's lot of money," said Edwin Ramirez, student. Ramirez said he plans to graduate in May 2015, meaning his last year of school could be his most expensive.

If the hike is approved the University of Texas System, it would go into effect in the fall.

Administrators said the university is still the most affordable compared to other state schools.

"We have a wealth of talent in this community. Our students are smart; they're engaged. They're intelligent, but they don't necessarily have a large amount of money in their wallet," said Vice President of Student Affairs Gary Edens.

Currently, tuition is about $2,500 compared to the University of Texas at Dallas, which charges $7,500.

UTEP was recently ranked the best value and most affordable emerging researching university in the county by the U.S. Department of Education.

Despite that honor, students said they aren't looking forward to paying extra.

"Right now we are kind of on a budget and having more expense and having an additional expense with tuition, I don't know how we are going to make it," said Ramirez.

Other public universities across Texas also plan to raise tuition by as much as 7 percent. Those schools already charge twice or three times what it costs to attend UTEP and that allows them to pay higher salaries for faculty.

"So for us to be able to compete, not only to retain the faculty that we have, but to recruit new faculty when we grow our programs we have to have the funding in order to do that," said Edens.

The 3 percent tuition hike is expected to generate an extra $3.2 million or so for UTEP and Edens said most of that will go to pay faculty.

Administrators said the good news is that although tuition may be increasing, the university is giving out more scholarship money. The university gave out more than $6 million in scholarships to El Paso students this year, about 50 more scholarships than they gave out last year.

"We see an increase in scholarships as well as financial aid, as well as employment on campus, so we are trying everything we can to assist students who are in need," said Edens.

The university is also planning to implement a fee for students taking excessive credits, which would apply to students who earned enough credits for a degree but are taking around 30 more credit hours.

Another change officials are looking into is to expand its new student fee for new students starting in fall 2014.

UTEP needs to present their plan for the increase to the UT System. Then, there are several more steps before the increase is finalized.