For some reason, I wasn't invited to this august gathering to discuss the matter of rapidly rising college education costs, but no worries. I can save them a bunch of time and solve the problem from here.
Gov. Rick Perry, concerned that higher education is "becoming out of reach" for some Texans, has summoned an unusual meeting today of regents from all the state's public university systems.
Tuition isn't the only issue on the wide-ranging agenda, but the meeting comes as students and parents continue to be hammered with a series of tuition increases stemming from a deregulation law that Perry signed five years ago.
The governor, in an interview Tuesday, said he wants to make a college education "as effective, as efficient and as affordable as it can be."
"I think we all have considerable concern that higher education is becoming out of reach for some of our citizens, and that is not good for the future of the state of Texas," Perry said. "So we need to look for every way that we can to make these schools accessible, affordable and as efficient users of the people's tax dollars as they can."
He said he believed much of that goal can be accomplished by boards of regents without new mandates from the Legislature.
Perry and other speakers or panelists, including a number with business ties, are scheduled to participate in the meeting, dubbed a conference on "Myths, Truths and Breakthrough Solutions for Higher Education in Texas."
The Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based conservative think tank, recommended participants to the governor's office.
Among those invited were former congressman Dick Armey, who is now affiliated with Freedom Works, a free-market advocacy group; Houston developer Richard Weekley; Houston businessman Charles Miller, who is a former University of Texas regent; Texas A&M University Chancellor Mike McKinney; and Texas Tech University Chancellor Kent Hance.
Perry supported the tuition deregulation law, which freed tuition from legislative control, to help bridge a $10 billion revenue shortfall in 2003 without raising state taxes.
Since then, tuition has soared. University governing boards, whose members Perry appointed, have said the increases are necessary because state appropriations haven't kept pace with increasing enrollment and other needs.
Black said Perry still supported the deregulation law but believed other steps can be taken to assure higher education is affordable.
Even before the latest round of increases, tuition and fees at state-supported universities had jumped an average 39 percent during the first three years after the 2003 deregulation law was enacted.