published Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Tennessee college students face higher than expected tuition hikes

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslem addresses those in attendance at MTSU for the signing or bill which will enable Hope Scholarship recipients at all state universities to use, as full-time students, up to $2,000 per semester in fall, spring, and summer semesters up to a 120-credit hour cap.
Photo by Jim Davis/DNJ
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslem addresses those in attendance at MTSU for the signing or bill which will enable Hope Scholarship recipients at all state universities to use, as full-time students, up to $2,000 per semester in fall, spring, and summer semesters up to a 120-credit hour cap. Photo by Jim Davis/DNJ

NASHVILLE — College tuition could rise this fall by 9.5 percent or even higher for students at Chattanooga State, Cleveland State and other Tennessee Board of Regents colleges and universities, authorities said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the University of Tennessee’s vice president for public and government relations, Hank Dye, said the UT board of trustees will also consider increases in the “same general ballpark” at its institutions such as the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Officials are pinning blame for the sharper-than-expected increases on a variety of factors, including cuts of 2 percent or about $20 million in state appropriations for higher education in the budget year starting July 1.

Moreover, the Board of Regents and UT systems are continuing to digest the loss of nearly $300 million in federal stimulus funds on July 1, officials said. And the systems also must foot the bill for part of a 1.6 percent pay increase for employees.

Students previously were bracing for 7 percent hikes based on recommendations made last November by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. But the UT and Board of Regents system boards are not bound by that, officials say.

Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan told reporters that “I think what we’re going to see is a recommendation from staff that will be somewhere between 8.5 percent to 9.5 percent, with some opportunity for discussion of individual institutions that may need more. ... We don’t really know how that’s going to come out yet.”

Staffers at the Board of Regents are running figures that will be presented to the board’s finance committee on Monday, Morgan said. The committee will make its own recommendation to the full board later in the month.

The 8.5 percent range would apparently apply to two-year community colleges like Chattanooga State Community College, Cleveland State Community College and Motlow State Community College near Tullahoma.

UT spokesman Dye said its full board will consider tuition increases at its June 23 meeting.

“There’s likely to be some differential among our campuses and, generally speaking, they’re going to be in that same [Board of Regents] range,” Dye said. “They won’t be less than that.”

Dye said UT tries to keep tuition as low as officials “reasonably can,” but must act to continue to meet its mission as other funds get cut.

According to figures provided by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the burden of paying the costs for a degree is falling increasingly on students.

Russ Deaton, the commission’s associate executive director for fiscal affairs, said preliminary estimates for the 2011-12 academic year indicate 67 percent of education and general revenues at four-year universities will come from tuition and the rest from state appropriations.

That doesn’t include specific mandatory dedicated fees such as health services or dorm charges, he said, and the percentage could be higher, depending on the amount of the tuition increase.

While tuition now accounts for two-thirds of education and general revenues, Deaton noted that, in the 2001-02 academic year, it was just 46 percent.

For community colleges, the 2011-12 figure is projected at 60 percent. In 2001-02, it was only 36 percent.

That trend worries Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, a Senate Education Committee member.

“We’ve been steadily decreasing state appropriations to higher education, making it more difficult for these institutions to function without tuition hikes,” Berke said. “The amount of college debt in our country now exceeds the amount of credit card debt in our country.”

Berke said the Haslam administration and lawmakers “have to be careful about closing off access to people when higher education is more important than ever.”

Chattanooga State President Jim Catanzaro said things could be worse. Haslam deserves “high praise because the cut of 2 percent is really modest versus what you see across the United States in higher education,” he said.

Morgan said he believes the situation will improve as Tennessee recovers from the recession.

Morgan made his comments to reporters after a signing ceremony in which Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law new policies regarding use of lottery-funded college scholarships. Such scholarships can now be used for summer school. But the law also implements a cap of 120 credit hours for most students.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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oft said...

I have nothing against Tennessee or Georgia raising fees for schools. The anti-christ, pro evolution doctrine they teach our children is a disgrace. I would raise the fees so no one could attend their indoctrination of such heresy. Do the Feds have our schools in a headlock that we won't ignore their mandate for us?

June 9, 2011 at 2:38 p.m.
inquiringmind said...

less income? reduce salaries as is done in most industries, but include the chancellor.

June 9, 2011 at 2:50 p.m.
hcirehttae said...

And the football coaches, if they can count how many there are...

June 9, 2011 at 2:57 p.m.
dao1980 said...

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

oft said "ani-christ, pro evolution doctrine"

That's the most hilarious thing that I have read this week!

Thanks for the laugh oft!

June 9, 2011 at 3:55 p.m.
Stewwie said...

A tuition hike for next year? No way!!! Haha. It would be big news if there was NO tuition hike. When was the last time that happened anyway?

June 10, 2011 at 12:14 a.m.
TJSmith1986 said...

Sure, with the cost of living increasing at a rapid rate, why not increase the cost of tuition? Many people are saying that there won't be enough qualified people with the right credentials to fill the voids as others retire from certain positions. How do they expect there to be enough qualified applicants when students can no longer afford the cost to obtain a degree because of the cost of tuition, federal loans and pell grants becoming harder to obtain, and the Hope Scholarship becoming available to the ones with the higest ACT scores and cumulative gpa's at the end of students' high school career. Meanwhile administrators keep getting raises in school systems at not only the cost of the students but also the cost of the parents. That's not only federal government for you but also university and community college politics for you. It's not uncommon these days for everything to be about the almighty dollar rather than the future of all of the college students in this country. I should know. I'm one myself, and not all of us were born with a silver spoon in our mouths. Maybe if the administrators and coaches would take a little cut in their pay and tone down their lavish lifestyles then maybe just maybe reality would sink in, but when is the last time any of these people voluntarily took a cut in pay to help find a resolution? I can't remember a time, because there probably never has been a time when that has actually happened, and I seriously doubt that there ever will be.

June 10, 2011 at 12:36 a.m.
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