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NASHVILLE — Undergraduate tuition will be going up this fall at the University of Tennessee's three campuses following approval Friday by UT trustees for increases at the Chattanooga, Knoxville and Martin campuses.

Trustees set 2.5% tuition increases for University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and UT Martin, while UT Knoxville's increase will be 2%. Officials touted them as a record-setting fifth consecutive year for keeping tuition increases low.

The increases from Fiscal Year 2018-2019 to FY 2019-2020 amount to $258 for UT Knoxville, $216 for UT Chattanooga and $236 for UT Martin.

In yet another action, trustees voted to lower out-of-state tuition rates for UT Chattanooga students from South Carolina and any state that borders Tennessee beginning next fiscal year.

UT Interim President Randy Boyd said keeping tuition low is part of the system's effort to make higher education affordable for all Tennesseans.

"Land grant institutions were created to assist the working class and lower class to move up," Boyd later said in a statement. "We, at the University of Tennessee, are not about exclusion, but about inclusion."

He noted the effort includes his UT Promise, which begins in 2020 and offers last-dollar scholarships to assist families with annual income of less than $50,000 which Boyd described as a move to "to provide a ladder up to Tennesseans."

The board approved a $2.5 billion operating budget for 2019-2020. 

And in a historic move, trustees voted to combine the UT Institute of Agriculture with the UT Knoxville campus. In yet another action, trustees approved creating the Oak Ridge Institute to advance the university's partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 

In a presentation before the system's Education, Research and Service Committee, Vice President for Research Stacey Patterson noted that UT is the only U.S. university that reports its agricultural programs, including research, separately. By combining the two, the university would rise in national rankings.

With the approval, UTIA Chancellor Tim Cross's title becomes senior vice president and senior vice chancellor for agriculture. He will report to Boyd and incoming UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman. Boyd noted that previously the two campuses were unified, but were separated in 2010.

"In combination, not only do they transform who we are today, but they transform us for years to come," Boyd said in the news release. 

UT Board Chair John Compton said "with the actions we're taking today around research, I'm quite confident we'll look back at this in six to 10 years as one of the most important decision we made."

The just-approved budget includes faculty and staff salary increases.

And it seeks $600 million in state funding for capital projects from Fiscal Year 2020-2021 through Fiscal Year 2024-2025. The list includes an audiology and speech pathology clinic for UT Health Science Center in Memphis, a new nursing building for UT Knoxville and the Grove Multipurpose Center for UT Martin.

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

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