Tuition to increase 14% at TTU, other TBR schools

The average Tennessee Tech University student can expect to spend about $484 more in the coming year following a 14 percent tuition hike approved today by the Tennessee Board of Regents.

The board voted on the increase Friday morning at its quarterly meeting in Chattanooga. Also approved was a $50 per semester athletic fee and a $20 per credit hour fee for business courses.

Austin Peay, East Tennessee State, Middle Tennessee State and Tennessee State added the business course fee as well. APSU, ETSU and TSU also added a $50 per semester athletic fee. MTSU doubled its previously existing annual $80 athletic fee, so students there will pay $160 a year, as did the University of Memphis, where students will now pay $200 a year.

"It's unfortunate that our funding continues to shift more of the burden to our students," said TTU President Bob Bell. "We want to maintain quality programs with the technology, programs and services students demand. The only way we can do that is through these additional fees.

"Our commitment remains to guarantee the value and excellence in our academic programs. We believe we can do that at this level."

Earlier this month the Tennessee Higher Education Commission recommended tuition increases ranging from a minimum 9 percent to a maximum 14 percent. The University of Tennessee board of trustees recently approved a 9 percent tuition increase for its students. Even with the 14 percent increase at the TBR universities, their student costs still remain lower than UT's campuses at Martin and Chattanooga.

All of Tennessee's public colleges and universities were forced to cut their budgets by 9 percent this year to help balance the state budget with no tax increases. For the six TBR universities and all of the two-year community colleges and technology centers, that cut amounted to some $57 million.

At TTU, the reduction took about $4 million from the Cookeville campus. As a result, the university eliminated 33 positions, its over-the-road motor pool operations, about 100 class sections, the printed version of the student yearbook and several other publications, a significant number of administrative and athletic expenses including most of its marketing budget and much more.

Funds from the tuition and fee increases will only allow the university to add back 20 of the class sections it planned to cut. Without those classes, students could be forced to return to campus another year because of unavailability this year.

The remainder of the new revenue will address increases in annual expenses such as utilities. Ever-rising utility and operating costs mean tuition increases barely scratch the surface of Tennessee's higher education funding needs. A fundamental change has occurred in how the state's public colleges and universities are funded.

While other Southeastern states allocate on average 6 percent of their budgets for higher education, Tennessee's contribution to its schools has dropped to only 2 percent, leaving students to help make up the difference.

"Even with a 14 percent fee increase, TBR universities and community colleges would be operating with only about 87 percent of the dollars per student that similar institutions in neighboring states have," said TBR Chancellor Charles Manning during the board meeting. "This is because state funding per student has fallen steadily over the past 10 years at the same time it has been growing at peer institutions.

"Even the tuition increases over the past several years have not kept pace with the cuts in state appropriations," he added. "In 1994-1995, the state provided about three times as many dollars per student as the student paid in tuition. In 2002, the state provided only about twice as many dollars per student as the student paid in tuition. If appropriations continue to be flat or decline, tuition will have to rise to permit us to continue offering Tennesseans a quality education."
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