Nashville: Haslam will 'probably' go along with tuition increases

Nashville: Haslam will 'probably' go along with tuition increases

June 22nd, 2011 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam says he "probably will" join with University of Tennessee trustees and Tennessee Board of Regents this week in approving double-digit tuition increases at many public universities and all two-year colleges.

Asked if he will vote for the increases, Haslam said, "Well, I probably will."

The governor told reporters Tuesday that in his conversations with officials at both systems, he has made it clear to them that they "understand that pricing middle-class families out of education is an issue."

But Haslam, who took office in January, said, "we can't beat them to death because like I said, we continue to decrease their funding."

The percentage of money the state gives to higher education has decreased over the past three decades, Haslam said, noting "we have to figure out a way to address that."

Moreover, the governor said, tuition at Tennessee's public colleges and universtities still compare favorably to their institutional peers in other states.

Still, Haslam said more can and should be done to control costs.

"I think the pressure is on them to not say, 'Well, the way we're going to solve the funding issue is always to have double-digit tuition increases. That can't be the answer. So I think asking them to go back, look at their cost structures [and] ... see what they can do to help."

He said he believes his legislation that allows students to use their lottery-funded scholarships for summer school will encourage quicker graduations and more efficient use of school resources.

The law limits the scholarships in most cases to 120 hours of academic credit.

Haslam serves as chairman of both the UT board of trustees and the Board of Regents. UT is looking at a 12 percent tuition hike for students at its main Knoxville campus and increases of 9.9 percent at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and UT-Martin campuses.

Regents are looking at double-digit increases at some universties as well as much as 11.8 percent increases at two-year institutions such as Chattanooga State and Cleveland State.

UT's board meets Thursday on the tuition recommendations while Regents consider their increases on Friday.