Tennessee Legislator Wants To Freeze Tuition At State Schools

Ayers Hall at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. UT is raising tuition 6 percent on all its campuses. The Board of Regents hikes range from 1.4 - 5.7%. Credit: University of Tennessee

Ayers Hall at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. UT is raising tuition 6 percent on all its campuses. The Board of Regents hikes range from 1.4 – 5.7%. Credit: University of Tennessee

The latest tuition hike at Tennessee’s public universities is the smallest students have seen in years. But one state senator wants to go further by instituting a tuition freeze.

Dickson Republican Jim Summerville plans to file a bill that he says would halt any increase to tuition costs for several years. And he’d like to change the way fees are set so that students at the University of Tennessee or Board of Regents schools can budget ahead for their full education.

“Something like a contract for students who enter, let’s just say UT, and you’re paying X amount of dollars when you first enroll, and [the contract is] for X amount of dollars, and that same tuition fee stays with you all the years you’re there, let’s say five years, just to give you some margin.”

Summerville contends keeping student costs down is key to getting more Tennesseans to enroll. But Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan argues its just not possible to both take on hard limits like a tuition freeze and maintain academic programs.

Tuition is one of the only ways schools have to offset fluctuations in how much they get from the state. And while Tennessee’s new budget does include an increase for higher education, Morgan says that doesn’t undo a roughly 30 percent drop in state spending over the four previous years.


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