NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee higher education officials gave preliminary approval Thursday to a tuition hike of close to 7 percent for one of their universities, and lamented that the increase probably could have been avoided if state leaders had made funding a priority.
The finance committee of the Tennessee Board of Regents - one of the state's two higher education governing boards - voted for an increase of up to 6.9 percent for its six state universities. East Tennessee State University could see the biggest jump, with an increase of $442 per year.
The panel voted for a 5.8 percent hike at is 13 community colleges, and 8.5 percent for its 27 colleges of applied technology.
The Regents' full board is scheduled to vote on the increases on Friday.
Most students in the University of Tennessee system, which is overseen by a separate governing board, will see a 6 percent jump after the UT Board of Trustees approved the increase on Thursday.
The increases are mostly a result of state revenue shortfalls that made it tough for the governor and the Legislature to appropriate new funds.
"It's unfortunate that once again a higher share of the cost is being shifted to our students," said TBR chancellor John Morgan. "We hope that in the coming years our state leaders will find a way to make higher education a funding priority to ensure that institutions that have stepped up to the plate to improve student success and have generated improved outcomes will see their efforts supported and rewarded."
UT President Joe DiPietro agreed.
"We need for Tennessee to make investments in education," he said. "It's not just what is right for us. It's right for all Tennessee. It's right for our children's children as we go forward."
About four years ago, Tennessee started funding its colleges and universities based on outcomes like graduation rates and credit completions instead of enrollment.
However, the state recently opted not to add any new funding to higher education for the next budget cycle because of a revenue shortfall of more than $270 million.
The lack of higher education funding means schools have to compete for the same pot of money as last year.