Students attending Sam Houston State University orientation programs this summer are being told that a $1,000 graduation present awaits them if their degrees are completed without unnecessary side-tracks.

A new law, approved by the recently-completed 75th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature and signed by Texas Gov. George W. Bush, offers the incentive to graduates who take no more than 3 semester hours beyond the minimum credit hours required for that degree. Many programs require 130 hours for an undergraduate degree.

The tuition rebate program becomes effective in September. Incoming SHSU students are also being told about it in publications being prepared and on the university's Web page.

Another provision of the same law, which becomes effective in September, 1999, will penalize students who amass more than 170 credit hours without obtaining a degree. Those students will be charged tuition at rates which could be as high as the out-of-state tuition rate. The out-of-state tuition rate is 10 times that of in-state tuition.

There are exceptions, such as for students with a double major, or for those who completed the hours more than 10 years before beginning a new degree program. Details concerning the administration of both provisions are being worked out by the state's universities, their governing boards, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Both measures were designed to discourage students who abuse taxpayer support of higher education by staying in school longer than necessary to complete a timely degree process.

A Legislative Budget Board analysis estimates that the equivalent of 4,167 full time students each year in Texas will be affected by the measure to penalize those with more than 170 hours, at a savings of $15.9 million beginning in Fiscal Years 2000 and 2001.

Beyond that, savings are expected to decline as students change education plans to avoid the higher rates.

The Coordinating Board estimates that 55,000 students earn undergraduate degrees each year, and about 11,000 will be eligible for the tuition rebate by the year 2001. The net impact of that program is estimated at $2.6 million in fiscal year 2001.

The law provides that rebates are to be paid from educational institutions' "local funds," which will be reimbursed by legislative appropriations.


Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak

July 3, 1997