UT Changes

The University of Tennessee is grappling with extraordinary budget challenges, and the future looks grim.  A few changes may strengthen the university long-term, but most will negatively impact students, employees, and the state as a whole.

As outlined in this morning’s News-Sentinel, they’re looking at laying off 700 people.  They’re raising tuition by 9%.  For our family though, Peterson’s proposal to remove the tuition cap is the most damaging.  For clarification, a "full time" student is defined as one taking 12 semester hours; that’s three or four courses, in most cases.  However, one must take at least 15 hours per semester to graduate in four years — more than that in some majors.

A student taking 18 hours (like my two) would see a 50% increase in tuition even before the 9% increase.

Peterson’s rationale is that removing the tuition cap would be an "efficiency measure, aimed at discouraging students from registering for classes they may drop too late for other students to get enrolled."  However, a more logical way to accomplish that would be to charge students an additional fee — say $50 or $100 — for dropping any class after the add deadline (typically about a week and a half after classes begin).

It’s not just a few high-performing students who would bear the brunt of this change: 51% of all full-time undergraduate students took 15 or more hours in Fall 2007 (the most recent data publicly available).  Those 51% would see a minimum 25% increase, in addition to the 9% across-the-board increase.

I acknowledge that the highest-paid administrators have voluntarily taken a 5% pay cut, and applaud them for starting there.  However, the draconian changes proposed to tuition rates and the elimination of the most cost-effective instructors will cut too deeply into the university’s core mission.

That will, in turn, cut deeply into the State’s efforts to improve overall.

At the very least, the State needs to increase the lottery scholarship amount, commensurate with any tuition increase.   But the tuition cap should be left alone.

3 Responses to “UT Changes”

  1. on 17 Jan 2009 at 5:16 pm Joel


    This is an issue with all public colleges and universities today. It is particularly acute for community colleges, where about half of all college students are getting their educations (not good enough for your daughters, I know).

    As the former chair of the Anderson County Republican Party, you know all too well the pressure your fellow party members have been putting on government to *cut taxes.* Well, Netmom, taxes pay for stuff. Like public universities. When you didn’t have kids in college, perhaps this didn’t seem so important. Now that you are facing the challenge of how to pay for the education your talented kids deserve, the shoe is on the other foot. Somebody has to pay. If the taxpayer doesn’t subsidize it, the consumer (that would be you) has to pick up the slack, in the Republican universe.

    That would not have been my choice. But I’m a progressive. Progressives believe that we, as a society, should invest in (read: put tax money into) the higher education of those who can benefit from it. The lotto ain’t gonna do it.

  2. on 17 Jan 2009 at 11:34 pm Netmom

    Maybe there’s some help on the way: http://insidehighered.com/news/2009/01/16/stimulus

  3. on 19 Jan 2009 at 12:45 am Mike

    Maybe UT administrators and progressive professors should take deeper pay cuts, professors in particular. That would help out. The costs of text books are excessively high. I would like to see Washington mandate a ceiling on the price of text books.

    I like your idea of the charge to drop a class over the current proposal of charging per credit hour. That may drive some people from UT.

    For certain the lotto is not going to be a solution for most if any.

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