Tennessee legislator plans to pursue freezing tuition rates at current levels at state colleges, universities

Tennessee legislator plans to pursue freezing tuition rates at current levels at state colleges, universities

July 22nd, 2013 by Staff Report in Local - Breaking News

Jim Summerville

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NASHVILLE - A state lawmaker today says he plans to file legislation freezing tuition rates at current levels for Tennessee's public colleges and universities.

The announcement comes after the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Board of Regents systems recently adopted hikes in tuition ranging between 3 to 6 percent.

"The current increases are an outrage, especially in light of this year's increase in appropriations to these higher education systems," said Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, in a news release. "No other governmental department consistently raises their costs to the taxpayers at such a high rate on an annual basis."

Acting on Gov. Bill Haslam's recommendations, the state increased higher education from state appropriations by $108.6 million this year. That includes about $35 million for the state's revamped funding formula - the first real increase in years.

Other portions of the $108.6 million went toward salary increases, higher health insurance costs among other things.

Summerville said his "Tennessee College Students' Tuition Relief Act" is currently in the drafting stage but will freeze tuition for several years, but provided no specifics on exactly how long.

But he said his bill will include cost reduction recommendations. They could include what he called "top-heavy" administrative office expenses and "excessive salary packages" for college coaches.

"Over the past decade, tuition at public colleges and universities has increased by an astounding 62 percent," Summerville said. "These ever-increasing costs lead students to take out more loans, thus saddling themselves with debt that can take almost a lifetime to pay back."

Higher education has traditionally been funded through both state appropriations and tuition and student fees. In recent years, states including Tennessee have cut back on increases in state appropriations with higher education officials saying they've had no choice but to hike tuition.