President Randy Boyd Testifies at House Budget Hearing


The House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee held budget hearings for public higher education institutions and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission on February 14. UT President Randy Boyd testified on behalf of the University of Tennessee, providing an update about the System and outlining UT funding priorities. He began his budget testimony by thanking the Tennessee General Assembly for their tremendous support of higher education. President Boyd then focused on “busting” three common myths he often hears about the University of Tennessee:

  • Myth 1: Enrollment is dropping at the University of Tennessee, so there is no need for new capital projects.

President Boyd highlighted that enrollment is not dropping at all. Total enrollment grew by 4.8% systemwide, reaching an all-time high of 58,726 students in the fall of 2023. In addition, retention rates are setting new records at the University of Tennessee, meaning more students than ever are staying and completing their degrees. First-year retention is up 2.6% to a record 85.1% across the entire UT System.

  • Myth 2Tuition is increasing more than the inflation rate.

There have not been significant tuition increases in recent years, and President Boyd stressed that keeping tuition affordable is a top priority for the System. In addition, the University is expanding the UT Promise program so that more Tennesseans can attend any UT campus without paying tuition or mandatory fees. Starting in Fall 2024, UT Promise will increase the income threshold from $60,000 to $75,000 annually based on adjusted gross income. With this change, two-thirds of Tennesseans will now qualify for the program. Each UT Promise student will also be awarded a minimum of $500 per semester to cover any remaining cost that can be applied to books and other course materials. The UT Promise program enhancements represent additional steps the University took to decrease students’ cost to attend the UT school of their choice and keep programs affordable.

  • Myth 3Four-year universities are not preparing students for the workforce.

President Boyd emphasized the critical role that four-year universities like the University of Tennessee play in producing the talent that the state needs. Without a doubt, UT fuels a robust talent engine in Tennessee, producing 13,465 new graduates in 2023, a 10.1% increase from just five years ago. The University of Tennessee is training the next generation of leaders, researchers, and thinkers and strengthening the workforce pipeline, particularly in critical fields vital to Tennessee’s economy.

Capital Needs and Campus Safety

To wrap up his remarks, President Boyd ended with two challenges he hopes the legislature will help address. First, he asked the state to consider a new formula to better support university capital project needs. Although the University is thankful that the governor’s proposed budget includes proposed funding for UT Chattanooga’s Fletcher Hall and Rollins College of Business, there are significant capital needs that exist systemwide. Across UT’s campuses, there are 1,012 buildings with an average age of 47 years, and 298 of those buildings are over 60 years old. Over $3.4B in capital outlay needs have been identified at the University of Tennessee, and investing in UT’s infrastructure will play an essential role in UT’s advancement. Finally, President Boyd requested additional state support for higher education campus safety and security. He stressed that keeping our campuses safe and secure is a top priority and thanked the state for its $30M investment in the Higher Education Safety Grant program during the special session. Although the grant will help higher education campuses make improvements, more state investments in safety and security will be important.

Several House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee members thanked President Boyd for his leadership, as well as echoed his remarks that there is a desperate need to invest more in higher education, especially in capital projects like UT Knoxville’s new chemistry building request. Chairlady Patsy Hazlewood closed the committee hearing by encouraging members to remember higher education’s needs when they make changes to the governor’s proposed budget.

UT Advocates can watch the entire budget hearing here.