MEMPHIS - The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees will vote Thursday on the recommendation of its finance committee to increase student tuition by 9 percent.
The committee voted Wednesday for the increase. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission has advised tuition increases up to 14 percent for the state's public colleges and universities to blunt state funding cuts.
"We had no choice," committee member Clayton McWhorter said of Wednesday's vote.
A 9 percent cut in state funding for higher education is part of Tennessee's $21.5 billion budget signed Monday by Gov. Phil Bredesen.
The budget reduces funding for higher education by $107 million, the largest cut for any single branch of state government.
University President John Shumaker said Tennessee taxpayers have made it clear they want people who use state services to pay a larger portion of their costs.
"To put the university in that category is understandable if regrettable because this is an investment in human capital that will stimulate the economy in the future," Shumaker said.
At a meeting of the trustees' executive committee, Shumaker said he would forego any salary increase this year, though his contract provides for performance bonuses.
The executive committee also voted to ask the full board to promote Loren Crabtree from provost to chancellor of the university's Knoxville campus.
The tuition increase would be the sixth in as many years for the university. Last year, the trustees raised tuition by 7.5 percent, which followed increases of 15 percent in 1999 and 2001, and 8 percent in 1998 and 2000.
Since the 1993-94 academic year, annual tuition at the University of Tennessee has increased by more than 100 percent.
While the 9 percent tuition increase is across the board, the higher percentage students will pay this fall will vary from school to school because mandatory activity fees also will change.
At Knoxville, tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates would increase by 9.7 percent - or $394. It would climb from $4,056 to $4,450 a year.
In Chattanooga, the increase would total 8.5 percent thanks to a reduction in some student activity fees. That would mean an increase of $302 this fall - from $3,550 a year to $3,852.
And at UT-Martin, the total increase would be 9.4 percent, or $332. The yearly cost would go up from $3,515 to $3,847.
Students enrolled in certain specialized graduate studies would see the largest tuition increases.
Total tuition and fees for the dentistry school at UT's Health Science Center in Memphis would increase 10 percent to $12,126 a year, while students studying to be pharmacists would pay 22 percent more for a total of $9,567 a year.
The Board of Regents, the other main governing body for Tennessee schools, is considering tuition increases of up to 14 percent.
Even with tuition increases, Tennessee schools also are expected to lay off employees and eliminate hundreds of unfilled positions.
The higher education commission was told June 11 that Tennessee colleges and universities need $92 million, in addition to the money raised by tuition increases, to match state funding for other schools in the Southeast.
Without tuition increases, that deficit could grow to almost $600 million within five years, the commission was told.
Tennessee puts 2 percent of its budget into higher education, compared to 6 percent for other Southeastern states.