Tuition hikes loom as governor signs Tennessee Promise

(WBIR - Knoxville) This week Governor Bill Haslam is taking a victory lap around the state to celebrate the enactment of the Tennessee Promise law. The Tennessee Promise provides two years of free community college tuition for graduating high school seniors starting next school year.

Haslam will hold seven separate ceremonial signings of the bill from Tuesday through Friday. The sign-a-thon includes a stop in Knoxville on Thursday.

As Haslam celebrates the enactment of a signature piece of legislation, tuition hikes are expected for higher education across the state.

Board of Regents Tuition Bump

The Tennessee Board of Regents finance committee met Thursday and discussed possible tuition increases at its universities and community colleges. The final decision will be made at the end of the month, but as of now the committee says Pellissippi State Community College could be looking at a 10.6 percent tuition hike next year.

An 8.1 percent increase in tuition is on the table for Roane State Community College. Students at Walters State could face a 6 percent tuition increase.

Last year at Pellissippi State, one year's tuition at 15 credits per semester (30 credits total) would have cost $3,504. A 10.6 percent increase would increase the annual tuition to $3,875.

For students who knock out core courses for two years at Pellissippi State before transferring to the University of Tennessee Knoxville for their final two years, the Tennessee Promise program would save them $7,750 in community college tuition. That figure, of course, is based on the flawed assumption that tuition will not continue to rise.

University of Tennessee's Towering Tuition

The University of Tennessee system will finalize its budget when the Trustees meet in June. As of now, there is talk of a 4 to 6 percent increase in tuition at the Knoxville campus next school year.

That increase would continue a long-running trend of large tuition increases at the UT flagship campus. In the last five years, in-state tuition for incoming freshmen at UT Knoxville has increased 52 percent. One year of in-state tuition in 2008-2009 cost $5,428. In 2013-2014, the same amount of credits cost $8,270.

One can argue tuition has actually increased 80 percent for freshmen at UT Knoxville. Last year new students were required to pay for 15 credits to acquire full-time status at an annual tuition cost of $9,780. Previously, the requirement was 12 credits.

Because last year's students were part of a transition from 12 credits to 15 credits for full-time status, they were given a deal that prevents their tuition from being increased more than 3 percent per year during the next four years. That one-time deal will not be extended to the next round of incoming Vols.

If the University of Tennessee increases tuition this upcoming year by 6 percent, new in-state students will pay $10,367 for one year's tuition. That is the first time in UT's history that in-state students would pay more than 10 grand for one year's tuition.

All of these figures are only for tuition. They do not include the added expenses of student fees. Likewise, these prices do not reflect the expense of books, room and board, and other college-related costs.


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