TBR approves 10% fee, tuition hike for TTU, other universities

The Tennessee Board of Regents yesterday approved a 10 percent maintenance fee and tuition increase for students at Tennessee Tech University and other four-year schools in the system. TTU students will also see a $37.50 increase in student activity and technology fees each semester.

The result could mean as much as a $138 hike in per-semester costs for students this fall to cover budget shortfalls caused by limited state funding. Eight percent of the increase will help the university fund operating expenses, and two percent was designated by the board to help address faculty salary equity issues.

Tuition increased six percent at TBR institutions last fall.

"It's an unfair burden to put on our students," said TTU President Bob Bell. "But until the state addresses significant higher education funding issues through some type of tax reform, it's a burden they'll continue to bear."

Despite the 10 percent increase, Tennessee Tech still faces a deficit of more than $2.1 million. While $1.2 million can probably be saved by eliminating funds normally allocated for equipment and systems renewal and replacement, the university will still have to identify about $935,000 in additional savings to balance its budget for the year. The university's budget committee will meet later this week to decide where to make those cuts.

"The $1.2 million we save by not investing in equipment replacement may not have much of a direct impact on students," Bell said, "as long as our major equipment and computer systems hold out. If something breaks, we'll be in a difficult situation trying to replace it."

The university's deficit is caused, in part, by the makeshift budget approved by the legislature earlier this year. While the budget allocated some $853,000 in new funds for TTU, it also saddled the university with covering its own portion of a 3.5 percent mandated pay raise approved for all state employees. Just to fund those salary increases, TTU required an additional $545,000 from the tuition increase.

The $37.50 student activity and technology-access fee increases are flat-rate fees each student pays when registering. The increase includes a $12.50 additional charge for technology access that all TBR universities will collect on top of the $100 per semester technology-access fee they charged students last year.

Tennessee Tech will also increase student activity and debt service fees by $25 each semester to help fund repairs in the Roaden University Center, improvements in student orientation programs, intramural activities and improvements in the quality of university programming.

Even with the fee increases, Tennessee Tech remains an incredible education bargain, Bell says.

Last year TTU had the lowest tuition of any public university in Tennessee. Despite the low cost and state funding shortfalls, the university ranked highest in graduation rate, student satisfaction, alumni satisfaction, and academic program reviews among all TBR universities.

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