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“While the General Assembly avoided a state government shut down with the ‘Stop Gap’ budget it passed Friday night, the legislature’s action places public higher education in a precarious position.

“Any increase in student fees would be offset by a dollar-for-dollar reduction in state appropriations. This removes all flexibility for the state’s public colleges and universities. The University of Tennessee has fixed-cost increases, or uncontrollable costs, totaling approximately $8 million. Half of this amount is the University’s share of increased health insurance premiums for its employees. Rising utility costs total approximately $2 million, and there are other unavoidable expenses such as opening new buildings.

“If the General Assembly fails to correct this situation, the University of Tennessee has very few options. We would be faced with limiting enrollments, reducing the workforce and eliminating programs. These choices are harsh, and we need to avoid any of them. Students pursing a college education do not deserve to be put in this situation. A college education is an investment by both the student and the State of Tennessee.

“However, the University cannot continue to do more with less. The budget that was provided public higher education last year by the Governor and the General Assembly was the best in 10 years. It temporarily slowed the bleeding.

“We hope when the General Assembly reconvenes Thursday it will find a way to fund the budget recommended by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the Governor.”