DiPietro says UT ‘business model’ may be broken as tuition hike approved

As University of Tennessee trustees passed a $2.05 billion budget — including a 6 percent tuition increase for most students at its undergradaute campuses — the system’s leader raised questions about the sustainability of its current funding model.

Further from the News-Sentinel:

In the last five years, the percentage of the system’s general budget coming from tuition has surpassed the percentage coming from the state, UT President Joe DiPietro said.

“We’ve shifted the cost from a public education to more of a private-driven enterprise,” DiPietro told trustees in his annual presidential report. “I’m committed to reversing this trend, but I think we need to go forward and take a hard look at ourselves.

“Frankly, we have to look at our whole business model and decide if it’s broken or not.”

Vice Chair Brian Ferguson told fellow board members meeting in Knoxville the president’s discussion was more to “whet your whistle” and that the staff will continue to look at data and various strategies before they can begin a more detailed, problem-solving discussion.

The governing body also gave the final OK Thursday for a new opt-in policy for student activity fees, a change urged by a state Legislature after lawmakers became irked by the student-run Sex Week on the Knoxville campus.

The policy requires students to knowingly allow their roughly $20 to fund programming that could be controversial, including Sex Week.

One year after the inaugural Sex Week at UT provoked outrage from legislators about the use of state funds, this year’s debate centered on the use of student fees for the student-run sex education program.

After lawmakers approved a House joint resolution condemning the student organizers of the events and entertained other bills aimed at eliminating the use of student fees for speakers altogether, among other ideas, the university reached a compromise.

A second resolution directed the UT Board of Trustees to implement a policy requiring students to opt in to paying the portion of the student activities fee that could go toward controversial student programming.

Trustees also conferred their first-ever lifetime achievement award for former UT President Joseph E. Johnson, 81, who has served more than 50 years in alumni relations, public relations, fundraising, government relations, campus planning and administration.