House Finance Committee Hears Higher Ed Budgets

The University of Tennessee completed its final budget hearing this week before the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee.  The University of Tennessee presented alongside the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Tennessee Board of Regents, and the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute.

Some interesting facts from the hearing include:

  • UT ​Knoxville produces more undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees than any other institute in the state.
  • UT Martin and UT Chattanooga have both increased their degree production this year.
  • Over half of the students at UT Knoxville have zero debt when they graduate.  (Overall, student debt has dropped 7.8 percent at UT undergraduate campuses over the last five years).

Tuition rates and future increases received considerable discussion at the hearing. “No one likes to raise tuition, but the reality of keeping [the UT system] moving in the right direction…necessitates resources,” DiPietro stated.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission recommended a 2-4 percent tuition increase earlier this year, a recommendation hinged on the expectation of full funding of the Complete College Tennessee Act (CCTA) outcomes formula.  Due to a difficult budget year for the state, the outcomes formula is funded at less than a third of THEC’s recommendation in the Governor’s FY15 budget proposal.

Although tuition is expected to increase, “it is a goal of the University of Tennessee System to stay within the single digit range,” DiPietro stated.

President Joe DiPietro also expressed support of the Governor’s “Drive to 55” Initiative during the hearing.  The University of Tennessee System supports increasing access to post-secondary education, a critical component of the Governor’s plan.

When specifically asked about the Tennessee Promise, DiPietro called the proposal “a big bold program with a lot of merit.”  The Tennessee Promise is a last-dollar scholarship proposal for Tennessee high school graduates seeking to attend a community college or Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT).

DiPietro also expressed the importance of considering a “safety net” for regional institutions like UT Martin and UT Chattanooga, who could potentially experience enrollment setbacks due to the migration of students to community colleges or TCATs.

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