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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chancellor Steve Angle delivered his annual state of the university address from the recently renovated Guerry Center on Oak Street on September 26, 2019.

NASHVILLE — The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees will consider a request by UTC to boost undergraduate student tuition and mandatory fees by 2% when trustees hold their June 25 meeting in Knoxville, officials say.

UT-Martin, meanwhile, is seeking a 1.7% increase. But the UT system's flagship university in Knoxville is not seeking any increase. Nor is the UT Health Science Center, which derives most its funding from outside the state's general higher education funding formula.

The boost sought by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chancellor Steven Angle and his staff, who didn't ask for an increase last year, amounts to $176 for undergraduate students enrolled prior to the fall 2019 semester. It's $192 for all other in-state undergraduates.

UTC had 10,341 students enrolled in undergraduate programs in the fall 2020 semester, according to the university's website.

If approved by trustees, UTC's tuition and mandatory fees per semester for students enrolled prior to fall 2019 would rise from the current $8,880 to $9,056. For students in the university's "Soar in Four" structure, proposed tuition and fees would rise from the current $9,656 to $9,848.

UTC's "Soar in Four" began in fall 2019. It allows students to pay a flat rate of $9,956 for 15 credit hours per semester instead of rates based on 12 hours for each semester. Similar to programs already in effect at UT-Knoxville and UT at Memphis, the 15-hour objective is intended to propel students toward graduation in four years.

Besides offering bachelor's degrees, the university also has master's and doctoral programs. In the fall of 2020, 1,387 students were enrolled in master's, doctoral, educational specialist and graduate special programs, according to UTC figures.

Share your voice

Members of the public are invited to weigh in at https://trustees.tennessee.edu/tuition-and-fee-proposals/utc/.

In their explanation to UT system trustees, UTC Chancellor Angle and his staff said the increase for undergraduates is "needed to provide revenue to cover growth in the costs of providing" programs and "maintain the quality and effectiveness of these programs in the future."

The university also stated the "majority of this new revenue will be used for instruction, which is the core mission of the university." That includes "multiple faculty positions, lecturers, additional courses to avoid barriers to graduating, and new programs and degrees offered."

Money will also be used for providing additional scholarships and student services support, according to university officials.

UTC officials say tuition and fee increases have been "very modest in recent years," pointing to the lack of any increase in tuition and fees in the current 2020-2021 academic year due to the coronavirus and an "uncertain environment" for students. From fiscal years 2019 through 2021, annual tuition and fee increases have averaged 0.8%, "well below the limits allowed" by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the university says.

The university also argues that to "mitigate" increased costs to students "it is standard practice" to "provide, at a minimum, an equal percentage amount of the increase to be applied towards additional scholarships. Often, scholarships, fee waivers, grant-in-aid and graduate assistantships receive new funding, which is in excess of the equal percentage amount increased by the tuition and fees."

UTC says about 70% of the university's in-state undergraduate students receive some form of scholarship, discount or waiver that partially offsets some or all of the costs of attendance.

A UTC spokesman did not respond to additional Times Free Press questions that included a request for the total additional funds the university expects to raise and why UTC is seeking increases when neither UT-Knoxville nor the UT Health Science Center are requesting one.

The university says other efforts to "mitigate" student cost increases would consist of additional grants issued through the federal CARES Act's Higher Education Emergency Relief Act (HEER Act) and "internal operation reallocations."

According to Tennessee general government figures, UTC received $9.51 million last year in HEER Act I funding and is slated for another $15.13 million in 2021. It is one-time money and not an annual amount that can be relied upon going forward.

UTC last raised tuition and fees by 2.5% in 2019.

Members of the public are invited to weigh in here.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.

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