Regents set tuition hikes for Chattanooga State, Cleveland State

Regents set tuition hikes for Chattanooga State, Cleveland State

June 14th, 2011 by Andy Sher in News

NASHVILLE - Students at Chattanooga State and Cleveland State will likely see tuition soar another 9.3 percent to 11.8 percent this fall under recommendations approved Monday by the Tennessee Board of Regents' Finance Committee.

The recommendations would have to be approved by the full Board of Regents before going into effect.

Increases are based on the number of hours of credit students take. For example, a student at Chattanooga State or Cleveland State taking 12 hours would see a 9.3 percent or $132 per semester increase in tuition. The more hours, the higher the costs.

In their meeting, conducted via telephone conference call, Finance Committee members unanimously approved tuition hikes for all Regents' system four-year universities, two-year community colleges and technology centers.

Increases at the four-year institutions ranged from 8.8 percent to as high as 11 percent at the University of Memphis. Average two-year school increases are 9.5 percent.

Collectively, the tuition increases at all Regents institutions will bring an additional $69.37 million in new revenue.

None of the Regents universities are in Southeast Tennessee. But University of Tennessee system students, including those at UT-Chattanooga, are expected to feel the pain later this month when UT trustees meet to consider similar increases.

Regents officials and Regents blamed the increases on several factors. Higher education has been hit hard by recession-related cuts in state funding in recent years.

There is the loss of about $170 million worth of federal stimulus funds, which masked the state cuts, in the new budget year that goes into effect July 1.

Moreover, there is another 2 percent or $20 million cut in the 2011-12 budget that goes into effect July 1 and also the impact of a 1.6 percent pay increase approved by state lawmakers.

"We are moving into the fourth straight year of state funding reductions," Vice Chancellor of Business and Finance Dale Sims told Finance Committee members. "I don't think it's a secret that our universities have seen right at a 20 percent decrease in state funding."

Last year, students at two-year colleges like Chattanooga State saw increases of 6 to 11 percent.

Sims last year said a three-year plan for raising tuition would help recover up to 80 percent of cut state dollars. This is the final year of that.

On Monday, Sims said the Regents system has cut teaching positions and reduced costs where it can but must maintain standards.

Regents agreed.

"It's not easy raising tuition like that this year," observed Regent John Farris, chairman of the Finance Committee. "We've done it several years now. But it's something ... we have to do."

Regent Tom Griscom of Chattanooga said he wasn't happy about hiking tuition. He noted the UT system faces similar increases.

"I think all of us think it's unfortunate to have to consider raising tuition," Griscom said.

Another Chattanooga regent, Howard Roddy, asked Sims to prepare figures comparing the Board of Regents' proposed tuition increases to those in nearby states.

Sims said he has done some work in that area already. In Alabama, he said, college tuition is rising by 16 percent. In Georgia, two-year and four-year institutions are going up on average by 9 percent.

Meanwhile, Finance Committee members also voted to recommend the Regents decrease an hourly pricing subsidy for students who exceed 12 hours of course credit in undergraduate studies and 10 hours in graduate studies.

The move, designed to discourage students from loading up on classes, would cut the subsidy from 85 percent to 80 percent.

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