UT Board of Trustees Approves Lowest Tuition Percentage Increase in Decades

Category: State Issues

1913500_864643106917993_2575225337038117204_oOne of the first signs of striking change in the University of Tennessee’s business model is the lowest tuition percentage increase in more than 30 years that was approved Thursday by the UT Board of Trustees.

Undergraduate tuition will increase by 3 percent at UT campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin as part of the $2.13 billion budget for FY16. The last time all three campuses increased tuition for undergraduates by 3 percent was in 1983-84. UT Knoxville and UT Martin increased tuition by 3 percent in 1997.

The minimal increase is due to an increase of $24.4 million in state support and the University’s commitment to securing a sustainable long-term business model. The University is seeking to address a projected $377 million annual funding gap over the next decade and shift the burden for closing that gap away from students and their families. The University made its budget plans under the assumption of 3 percent inflation, 3 percent tuition increases and flat state funding.

“This tuition increase follows our 3-3-0 model we have been discussing for nearly a year now. This year, we are pleased that state appropriations were strong,” UT President Joe DiPietro said. “We did very well this year in state funding and thank the governor and legislators for their support. We must continue to press for increased support but also plan for difficult budget circumstances in the future.”

The University received $8.3 million from state appropriations to partially fund a 1.5 percent pay increase for employees. UT is supplementing that with $16.3 million from fees, grants and contracts, endowments and budget reallocations. Each campus and institute has varying plans for additional pay increases.

“Over the last year, we have raised awareness about the University’s business model and anticipated funding gaps. We have taken ownership of this issue and have taken action. Our campuses and institutes are working hard on changing their budgets to reflect this need,” DiPietro said. “This is a process. It’s a long journey, and we are only at the beginning. But I feel very good about where we are currently and where we are headed.”

The board paid tribute to Dr. Ed Boling, who served as president from 1970-88 and died June 18 at the age of 93. He was the longest-serving president in modern times and is noted for the increased enrollment and physical footprint of the University and for his dedication to building strong donor and alumni relationships.

“There is no better way to honor Dr. Boling’s legacy than by working hard to achieve our goals,” DiPietro said. “He made the University better for us just like we are making the University better for generations to come.”

The board elected a new vice chair to replace Brian Ferguson, who stepped down in April, when he moved out of state and was no longer eligible to serve on the Tennessee-based board. Vice Chair Raja Jubran, a graduate of UT Knoxville, is the founder and chief executive officer of Denark Corporation, Inc., a Knoxville-based general contracting and engineering company. He was appointed to the board by Gov. Haslam in 2012.

As part of the business model initiative, the board approved the Institute of Agriculture’s proposal for a voluntary retirement incentive plan for AgResearch staff. The program will offer a lump sum incentive payment of four months’ base salary to eligible employees. AgResearch anticipates the cost savings of an estimated $990,656 would help create new faculty positions, modify staff positions or address deferred maintenance needs at facilities across the state. Those who elect to participate may begin the process on July 1, 2015, and will have until Dec. 31, 2015, to retire.

UT Chattanooga Chancellor Steve Angle presented the campus’ strategic plan, 2015-2020. According to the plan, it “focuses on four fundamental goals to transform lives through meaningful learning experiences; to inspire, nurture, and empower scholarship, creativity, discovery, innovation and entrepreneurial initiatives; to ensure stewardship of resources through strategic alignment and investments, and to embrace diversity and inclusion as a path to excellence and societal change.”

The president submitted for the first time an annual report on the use of student programs and services fee funding at each campus to comply with a measure taken by the board in June 2014 that established certain restrictions on the use of the funding, required chancellors to establish an opt-in procedure and a committee to allocate the funding, and established a criteria for allowing the funding to be used for student-organized programming.

The trustees also approved the UTHSC long-range master plan presented by the architectural firm Perkins and Will. The master plan was last updated in 1996 and requires revisions to address enrollment growth and other changes. The plan makes way for new, state-of-the-art research and educational facilities that will reposition UTHSC as the competition intensifies to recruit top-tier students, researchers and faculty.

The board also approved the awarding of an honorary bachelor’s degree at UT Chattanooga for Charles D. Cofield, who studied chemistry at the University of Chattanooga but left to enter the workforce before completing his degree. Cofield started and managed 15 chemical companies during his career, and he holds numerous patents in the textile chemical field. The degree is to be awarded later this year or in 2016.

New student and faculty representatives joined the board as non-voting trustees. Miranda Rutan is a senior at UT Martin studying marketing and fine and performing arts, and Brian Donavant is past Faculty Senate president and associate professor of criminal justice at UT Martin.

For an archived webcast of the full board meeting, go to http://www.tennessee.edu/.

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