Another tuition increase likely in UT system

Another tuition increase likely in UT system

October 10th, 2011 by Perla Trevizo in News

In this file photo, Justin Higgins, second from right, informs a group of Stratford High School students from Nashville about the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga during a tour of the campus.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.


Rate and cost increase for in-state undergraduates:

• 2007: 6 percent, up $224

• 2008: 6 percent, up $238

• 2009: 7 percent, up $296

• 2010: 9 percent, up $407

• 2011: 9.9 percent, up $486

Source: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

The University of Tennessee system just began talks about tuition for next year but the trend points to more increases, UT President Joe DiPietro said.

And that's despite a nearly 40 percent increase in tuition in some schools over the past five years.

"We'll be as kind as we can; nobody likes to raise tuition," he said during an editorial board meeting at the Chattanooga Times Free Press last week.

In fact, DiPietro said, he would like to lower tuition, "but it's just not the reality of who we are or where we are financially."

For fiscal 2012 the University of Tennessee received $411.3 million in state appropriations, 25 percent less than in 2008.

And 2012 is the first year without federal stimulus funds that totaled $219 million in fiscal 2010 and 2011, university officials said.

Thanks to a 9.9 percent increase this year, money from student tuition and fees will exceed state appropriations for the first time, UT Treasurer Charles Peccolo said in a news release earlier this year.

State budgets are precarious nationwide and tuition increases are likely in many states, said Thomas Harnisch, policy analyst with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

"Until the economy picks up, states are probably going to continue to cut budgets, and higher education is one of the first things to get cut and one of the last things to receive funding when recession finally is over," he said.

University of Tennessee system President Joe DiPietro.

University of Tennessee system President Joe DiPietro.

Undergraduate students paying in-state tuition at UTC have seen an increase of almost 38 percent in the last five years. The total cost of tuition and fees has risen from $5,062 per year in 2007-08 to $6,718 this year, school data shows.

Richard Brown, vice chancellor of finance and operations, said the increase next year will be moderate.

"We will make every effort to keep it under the double digits," he said.

And whatever the amount, it will come under the following parameters, he said:

• Being sensitive that while the university is economically challenged, so are students and families.

• Filling sections, especially in math and science, to help students graduate in four years.

• Meeting operational needs, such as providing students with more advisers.

• Determining operation cost, including utilities and building maintenance.

Tuition for the UT system is finalized each year during the UT board of trustees meeting in June, usually closely following the Legislature's state appropriations bill.

Community colleges are not much different.

Earlier this year, the Tennessee Board of Regents approved its highest tuition increase at community college in six years, 9.3 percent.

At Cleveland and Chattanooga state community colleges, tuition has more than doubled for in-state students over the past decade, from $1,488 a year in 2001 to $3,096 in 2011.

But as tuition increases, so does the value of having a post-secondary education, said Harnisch.

"The only thing that costs more than a college degree today is the cost of not getting a post-secondary credential," he said.

Tammy Swenson, executive vice president for business and finance at Chattanooga State, said "there's no way around" shrinking state funding for higher education.

She said it's too early to tell what the picture will be in the coming year.

"Tuition depends on the economy in general, as to how it plays out in the next few months," she said. "In listening to news and reading newspapers, state revenues are up. Hopefully that's an indicator."

Connect with the Times Free Press on Facebook