KNOXVILLE – University of Tennessee trustees Wednesday adopted a 15 percent undergraduate tuition hike at UT’s Chattanooga, Knoxville and Martin campuses.
The action raises in-state, undergraduate tuition and fees $422 at Knoxville to $3,234 a year and $352 to $2,698 at Chattanooga and Martin. In-state graduate students at Knoxville will pay 8 percent, or $138, more. Law, medicine and dentistry students will pay 15 percent more while veterinary medicine is 10 percent higher.
“We are balancing our budget on the backs on the students,” UT Acting President Emerson Fly said. “The state has not paid its share and has not helped us balance the budget to any extent at all.”
Fly said state spending has increased 5.5 percent annually for 10 years, but state appropriations to UT have risen only 1.5 percent per year.
UT has had to raise tuition and fees 98 percent during that period, Fly said. The lack of state support is causing students to bear an unfair share of the costs, he said.
The increase assumes that the current state budget will pass, though it has yet to be signed by Gov. Don Sundquist.
A veto and failure to pass the General Assembly’s “bare-bones” budget could cause UT to rescind the fee increase, Fly said.
“It is my understanding that the governor has until July 28 to sign this bill or veto it,” Fly said. “After that it would be way too late to do anything but make refunds after school starts, but if that becomes the case that is what we will do.”
The state budget calls for 2.5 percent pay increases for state and university employees but doesn’t provide UT all the dollars needed to pay them.
It also requires UT and Board of Regents schools to evaluate the impact of current appropriations and report to the Senate and House Finance Ways and Means Committee by Jan. 1, 2002.
Fly said he would ask chief fiscal officers at UT campuses to form a task force to work on the study. The impact could include reduction or elimination of programs, enrollment caps, a hiring freeze and a delay in non-essential purchases, he said.
“The only way to avoid (even higher tuition hikes) is to make some reallocations, assuming the Tennessee General Assembly is not going to fulfill its responsibility,” Fly said. “They have not done it so far, and we will have to make some cutbacks and do some things we don’t want to do.”
Johnnie Amonette, vice chair of the board, said the quality of education a
t UT is the board’s chief concern.
“I know this has been a difficult situation,” Amonette said. “We are all concerned about raising tuition and fees, but I think an even greater concern is quality education and preparing students for their future.
“I think as trustees we have one overriding obligation to always think and act in the best interest of this university, and that is what you have done today.”
Sylvia Davis, UT vice president for budget and finance, said that even with tuition increases, UT remains at or near average tuition costs of its peer institutions.
Money from tuition hikes will be used to cover higher fixed costs, such as higher utility and maintenance costs, brought about by inflation and by bringing renovated buildings back into service, Davis said.
Note: See sidebar “2002 Fee Recommendations” for a PDF copy of UT student fee changes.