To become one of the top five master's-level universities in the South, UTC must spend more dollars per student, UTC Chancellor Roger Brown says.
Master's-level universities that are ranked higher than UTC by U.S. News & World Report magazine are spending $14,450 per student per year, while the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is spending $10,300 per student per year, he told a group of legislators and community leaders Friday.
"I think that it's one yardstick for how much the state has invested in higher education," Brown said. "At many of our peer schools, the states are making a greater investment. Has Tennessee done all that it can in educating its populace?"
Brown shared his plan for UTC's advancement to a top-five ranking by 2021 during a visit from newly hired UT System President Joe DiPietro. UTC is at No. 17 in the magazine's ranking of the top 20 regional public universities in the South.
DiPietro pushed UTC leadership to analyze how long it would take to raise freshmen's ACT scores and to increase graduation and retention rates, saying UT in Knoxville did a similar study. He said he wants the Chattanooga campus to set high goals.
"I'm proud of UTC and their blue and gold," he said. "Top five is a good thing, and we'll get there sooner or later."
Still, reaching those goals will be challenging, officials said, since state funding continues to dry up.
UTC has cut $13.2 million from its budgets since 2008, and the state has told it to plan for an additional 2 percent cut this year, amounting to $779,000.
Richard Brown, the school's vice chancellor for finance and operations, said no jobs are on the line, but school officials are still in the preliminary planning stages for the budget.
DiPietro said he doesn't foresee this year's cuts triggering job cuts at the system level either.
All cuts must be approved at the UT board of trustees meeting in June, along with a possible tuition increase at UT schools of 7 percent to 9 percent. Last year, the system passed a 9.9 percent tuition hike at UTC.
"This is one of the toughest rebalancing periods in the history of the university, but the good news is that the economy is on the upswing," said Richard Brown. "Higher education will be part of the solution for the state."