Next year, in-state students could see a tuition increase of at least $290.
In its June meeting, the board of trustees will take a vote on the 3 percent spike – the minimum amount needed to cover standard increases in fixed costs, such as maintenance, faculty promotions and contract renewals.
The amount of the tuition increase will be finalized prior to the meeting.
A tough fiscal year for Tennessee, however, could push tuition even higher. By January 2014, the corporate franchise and excise tax alone had taken in $150 million less than expected.
Gov. Bill Haslam's proposed state budget, unveiled Feb. 3 at his fourth annual State of the State address, provides $9.6 million to be shared by all public post-secondary schools through the Complete College Tennessee Act. The CCTA originally recommended $29.6 million, based on a formula considering an institution's total graduates and the time those graduates took to gain a degree.
In fall 2013, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission recommended a 2-4 percent tuition increase, assuming the state would provide the full $29.6 million suggested by the CCTA.
"That didn't happen. We're now reassessing it," Butch Peccolo, UT system chief financial officer said.
After receiving $432 million from the state in 2013, the UT system will receive $470 million in 2014 – including its share of the CCTA money in addition to general higher education funding. Funding remains below the pre-recession level of $509 million in 2008.
What are we spending it on?
Chris Cimino, vice chancellor for finance and administration, explained that in 2013 the state of Tennessee mandated a 1 percent wage increase for all its employees after three years of tight budgets and prevented an inflationary cost of living adjustment.
Fifty-five percent of the wage increase at UT was paid by the state government, but in February 2014, administrators lobbied the legislature to compensate UT for the other 45 percent of the mandated wage increase. In response, the state agreed to fund six additional percentage points of the cost.
That support, however, was drawn from UT-Knoxville's portion of the CCTA allocated $9.6 million.
Why pay more?
Peccolo said UT's top priority has become finding the resources to fund fair compensation following a 2011 study that illustrated UT employees are paid significantly less than similar positions elsewhere.
In order to close this gap, $150 million is required, Peccolo said.
Although UT consistently requests these funds from the state, Peccolo reminded students of the impact well-paid educators could have.
"A lot of that plays through to achieving Top 25 status," Peccolo said.
Melissa Freeman, junior in psychology, said she is one of those worried about rising tuition. Not adjusted for inflation, the price has increased by 56 percent since 2007.
"I do feel like teachers are underpaid," she said, "but I don't know if raising it (tuition) for students is the right way to go."
While she acknowledged the long-term benefits of campus improvements and reaching the Top 25, Freeman said she is concerned moving too quickly will hurt students like herself, who depend on college loans.
"I feel like if it was spaced out more, it wouldn't burden students at the moment as much as it is."