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      WT faces tuition hike

      The Texas A&M University System is calling for a 3.95 percent tuition increase, which means students at West Texas A&M are about to pay $150 more per semester.

      The increase is capped at $150 and, according to WT officials, students who use financial aid will continue to be taken care of.

      "Financial aid will be adjusted by that increase for those students who receive federal financial aid," Vice President for Business and Finance Gary Barnes said. "It should not be an additional financial burden.

      WT President Joseph Patrick O'Brien said the extra money brought in by the tuition will go to different areas of the university, including faculty and staff salaries and different student services. One of the focal points is African American and Hispanic students who, according to demographics, are not graduating at as high a rate at the non-Hispanic white students.

      "What we need to do is to put into place a support system whereby all those groups can thrive while they're here at WT so that we don't have those differential graduation rates," O'Brien stated.

      Other areas of interest for the university are social work accreditation and employee insurance. O'Brien said university officials will continue to prioritize in order to decide which areas will receive financial benefits.

      WT tuition is among the lowest in the state compared to other public universities and O'Brien pointed out it will remain that way, as other universities continue to increase their tuition, as well. No students like to fork out more money, but at WT's tuition hearing Tuesday some said they understood why it had to be done.

      "In the state's tight financial situation with the budget cuts going on, I do believe it's fair. I do," WT Student Body Vice President Nick Goettsche said. "Nobody likes raising tuition and fees, but when it's necessary, with that big of a budget cut, I think we need to do it."

      WT officials have assured students that through this process they will remain the top priority.

      "We're always very mindful of trying to balance the services we provide for the students and the cost to provide those services," Barnes stated.