Tuition Stability Act Delayed Until 2018

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Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) has sent his “Tuition Stability Act” to the Senate’s General Subcommittee, and although he plans to pursue the issue again next year, he noted on Wednesday some flaws with his existing language and the difficulty he had getting his plan in a workable form.  The bill was never put on notice in the House by sponsor Rep. Bill Dunn (R- Knoxville).

Dickerson campaigned on the issue in 2016.  The bill would have mandated that tuition and all mandatory fees at public universities remain fixed at freshman-year rates for students’ first four academic years.  While the “fixed-rate” approach may appear appealing to college paying parents and students, the impact on long-term affordability and quality has a number of crippling challenges.

Tuition freeze programs like this proposal lead to wide disparity in tuition rates. All subsequent fixed cost increases such as those tied to inflation are shifted to incoming freshmen.  To date, no other state has successfully maintained this approach.

Understanding that affordability of a UT degree is essential, UT President Joe DiPietro and the UT Board of Trustees have taken steps to keep tuition increases low.  System-wide efforts to become more efficient, effective, and entrepreneurial are part of the reason why UT has been able to limit tuition increases to their lowest levels in 3 decades, for two years in a row.  Plans are in place for similar record low increases for 2017.  DiPietro met with Dickerson earlier in the session and felt some progress was made in making Dickerson aware of the complexities involved with managing tuition increases.

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