After years of sharp tuition increases and declining state subsidies, Tennessee’s public colleges and universities are turning to student fee increases to help pay the rising costs of running the campuses, reports Richard Locker.
The Tennessee Board of Regents is reviewing requests from its institutions for 64 fee changes, most of them increases, for the 2014-15 school year — 38 spread among all six of its universities and 26 at six of its 13 community colleges. The other seven, including Southwest Tennessee CC in Shelby County, are not requesting any fee increases.
Fees are separate from tuition but paid by students on the same semester bill. They can add substantially to that bill: tuition for this school year (two semesters) for an in-state student taking 12 semester hours at the University of Memphis is $7,056 but mandatory fees (paid by all students enrolled) add another $1,256 to the bill.
The U of M, which has pledged not to raise tuition next year for the first time in years, has asked for hikes in two mandatory fees totaling $307 per year and seven other fees paid by some students. If all the requests were approved, they would generate nearly $5.3 million for the campus.
Of the 64 requests through the TBR, 19 are mandatory fees like activity fees and debt-service fees paid by all students on a campus, and 45 are specialized fees paid for specific classes or programs that some but not all students pay.
…Chancellor John Morgan of the TBR said it’s important to note campus requests were due by mid-January, well before Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget proposal was unveiled Feb. 3. That budget contains less of an increase for higher education than TBR and the UT Board of Trustees expected. If state lawmakers adopt the budget unchanged, student tuition could rise by 4 to 8 percent in August — more than double the 2-4 percent higher education officials had projected if their total state funding request was approved.
Collectively, the 64 fee changes would generate about $12 million more for the six universities and $1.7 million for the community colleges that requested them.