By Lisa Lingerfoot, The Tennessean
Tennessee State University
freshman Brea Amos was ready to pack up and head home when school
administrators found a last-minute scholarship that allowed her to stay
Her financial need is a common problem in Tennessee
public colleges as families struggle to keep up with skyrocketing
attendance costs. At TSU alone, about 300 students quit school last fall because of money, President Glenda Glover said.
The costs are creating such hurdles for Gov. Bill Haslam's
plan to increase the number of college graduates in Tennessee that he
is proposing an increase in higher education funding in hopes of
creating more scholarships.
The governor also has an adviser studying whether financial aid plans are helpful in accomplishing the goal, said John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, which oversees most of the state schools.
added funding that could help keep a tuition hike below 6 percent for
the 2013-14 academic year, Morgan is optimistic that parents and
students will see a little relief.
Haslam's plan, called "Drive to
55," is an effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with an
associate's degree or higher from the current 32 percent to 55 percent
by the year 2025.
At his recent State of the State address, Haslam
proposed a $35 million endowment that would provide nearly $2 million
in additional scholarships each year and help "fill the gaps between
students' financial aid and the real costs of college including books,
supplies, room and board." He also recommended more than $300 million in
additional spending for higher education facilities.
His proposals must be approved by the legislature, which can make changes.
The cost of attending college is increasing faster than prices in any other sector of the national economy, said Will Doyle, a Vanderbilt University
professor whose research focuses on the rising costs of a college
degree. His work shows a direct correlation between increased costs and
Secondary education is necessary to live "a
decent middle-class lifestyle," Doyle said. At the same time, the cost
of obtaining that education is "pricing people out of the ability to get
decent jobs. We've been saying (the two simultaneous trends) will
converge. The breaking point has got to be getting closer."
Tennessee and across the nation, state governments are contributing less
to the cost of operating colleges and universities, and the cost burden
has shifted to parents and students. In 1986-87, students paid about 28
percent of the cost of their education in Tennessee's public
universities and colleges, according to figures supplied by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. Now, they are expected to pay 68.4 percent of the burden.
real downside is that when a student is faced with not putting the
financing together and converting to part-time (student), they are not
likely to be as successful," Morgan said. "The more it costs, the more
hours you work, the harder to make it work."
'They were scared'
Williamson County father David Beahm paid for his education in the
1980s at Tennessee Technological University by working part-time at a
department store. He was shocked at the price tag for his daughter's
University of Tennessee education when she enrolled there four years
"Something is going on out there," he said. "I've done well, but it takes a bite out of your pocketbook."
of Beahm's friends have borrowed money to send their kids to school.
"What you see now is kids graduating with debt that used be for medical
school," he said.
Tennessee has worked to keep debt down and ranks
near the bottom of the national list when it comes to after-graduation
debt, Morgan said.
In 2007-08, the average student debt after
graduation from the University of Tennessee was $19,000, and in 2012,
that amount fell to $18,400, said Katie High, vice president for
academic affairs and student success for the university system of
schools. "These are good numbers," she added.
India Ward, freshman
class president for the TSU Student Government Association, said many
students ask her for advice when they see money is drying up. "They were
scared. They didn't know who to talk to."
TSU President Glover,
who took office in January, made increased donations for scholarships
her immediate focus, and her team whittled the number leaving school for
financial reasons to about 10 this semester, she said.