By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Some Tennessee college students this fall could see an increase in tuition and fees of more than 7 percent that was recommended Tuesday by the finance committee of the state Board of Regents.
The increases will be presented later this month to the full board, which oversees six universities, 13 community colleges and 27 technology centers. East Tennessee State University has the potentially highest increase at 7.2 percent and Austin Peay, the lowest at 3.4 percent.
The average increase for the community colleges was about 4.3 percent, and the technology centers was about 6.2 percent.
Regents Chancellor John Morgan said no rise in tuition is ever welcomed, but that this necessary for the institutions to address certain needs, such as salaries and maintenance costs.
“While we always hate to raise fees, we think these are justified and really required for us to do what we need to do,” he said.
Tuesday’s meeting coincided with the release of the U.S. Department of Education’s annual look at college affordability. The average tuition at a four-year public university climbed 15 percent between 2008 and 2010, according to the department.
It also found significant price increases at the nation’s private universities, including those that are for-profit, where the net price for some schools is now twice as high as Harvard.
Jessica Huddleston is a senior at Tennessee State University in Nashville. The 21-year-old, who drives about 30 miles to attend class three days a week, said the proposed increase will likely force her to apply for more student loans.
“I would have to put more money toward tuition, and that would leave me less money for books and gas,” said Huddleston, who is majoring in speech therapy.
As for the Education Department report, there were some bright spots in the data.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan noted that community colleges remain one of the most consistently affordable options for higher education: The average net price of a community college increased by less than 1 percent between 2007 and 2009. Tuition, room and board average $8,085 at a public, two-year institution in 2010.
Morgan said he hopes to keep Tennessee’s community colleges affordable.
“Considering the mandatory fee, maintenance fee and tuition increases recommended today, the total increases prices for students at our institutions next year will … still be within the range of increases proposed by THEC (Tennessee Higher Education Commission) last fall,” he said.
“Our community colleges are at the lower end of that proposal.”