KNOXVILLE – A proposal to hold tuition increases to record lows for three consecutive years is unprecedented in the history of the University of Tennessee system and on its way to consideration by members of the UT Trustees Finance and Administration Committee.
In Tuesday’s meeting of the UT Board of Trustees Tuition and Fees Subcommittee, members agreed to a proposed 1.8 percent increase in undergraduate tuition at all UT campuses. In 2016, UT Trustees approved a 2.2 percent increase—the lowest since 1984. It came on the heels of a 3 percent increase in 2015, marking the first time since 1978-1979 that undergraduate tuition increases were 3 percent or less for two consecutive years.
The UT Trustees Finance and Administration Committee next reviews the current, proposed 1.8 percent increase to consider sending it to the full UT Board for a required vote. Should the board approve the proposal, it will mark three consecutive fiscal years of tuition increases of 3 percent or lower—a first since establishment of the UT system in 1968.
“As a result of Gov. (Bill) Haslam’s efforts and the concurrence of the Tennessee legislature, state appropriations are at levels very helpful this fiscal year in allowing us to self-limit tuition increases to 1.8 percent and potentially achieve an historic milestone of three straight years of record low increases. We are very sensitive to affordability at UT and strive to ensure that our graduates don’t start their careers incurring excessive cost, and for some, debt,” UT President Joe DiPietro said.
“I believe this is an example of partnership between the state and the University of Tennessee to enable affordability while also maintaining excellence. Certainly, our board must vote before the University’s budget is official, but I am pleased to be able to take this proposal to our board and look forward to their action on it.”
The University’s current efforts to sharply self-limit tuition increases began in 2014, when DiPietro told UT Trustees that, without action to avert it, a funding gap of $377 million was projected over the next decade. DiPietro also was determined not to allow large tuition increases to be used to close the funding gap.
DiPietro formed his “Budget Advisory Group” of internal and external stakeholders who worked on a plan for the University to maintain excellence and boost efficiency while also seeking opportunities to be more entrepreneurial. The group produced a set of “budget boundaries” to govern priorities and use of resources for two fiscal years that the UT Board approved and implemented in 2015.
A set of updated budget boundaries is currently in development.
“As I have often said since 2014, precluding drastic tuition increases required us to focus on maximizing available resources while determining how to achieve sustainable funding for the long term,” DiPietro said. “We’re very grateful to have had a committed partnership in this effort from Gov. Haslam and the General Assembly.”