Feb. 13--NASHVILLE -- Students at Tennessee's public colleges and universities could face tuition increases in August closer to 8 percent than the 2 to 4 percent originally projected, Tennessee Board of Regents officials said Thursday.
The new projections are only tentative and months away from anything final, but they're the preliminary figures that result from the failure of Gov. Bill Haslam's budget proposal to fully fund the performance outcomes-based formula for higher education created by the state legislature in 2010, officials said.
The Haslam budget plan is under review by General Assembly and won't be final until lawmakers approve it in late March or April.
Despite Thursday's financial update by the Board of Regents' finance committee, the University of Memphis still plans no tuition increase next year, Interim President R. Brad Martin said.
"For the University of Memphis, our position is very clear: We don't propose a tuition increase; we don't want a tuition increase," he said. TBR is the U of M's governing board.
When the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) presented its budget request to the Haslam administration in November, its officials said tuition hikes could be held to 2 to 4 percent next year if the state increased its "formula" funding for higher education by $29.6 million. For TBR institutions the requested increase was between $17 million and $21 million.
The administration's budget plan does increase funding for higher education, but in different ways than requested, and the effective increase for TBR schools is about $7.3 million -- mostly to pay for about 60 percent of a 1 percent salary increase and a share of employee health premiums. It includes no increase for the "outcomes-based" formula at TBR schools that the campuses had expected.
"The THEC recommendation of 2 to 4 percent at our (TBR) institutions was predicated on our institutions receiving $21 million. It would not be unreasonable to think that 2 to 4 percent becomes the upper end of a 6, 7 or 8 percent range, taking into account" cost increases on the campuses, TBR Vice Chancellor Dale Sims told the finance committee.
TBR Chancellor John Morgan also told the panel that "it's easy to see how that (2-4 percent) range could be double," to 4 to 8 percent. But he said the ultimate tuition increase will depend on what the legislature does with the budget.
At the U of M, Martin said he "can't imagine anything that could change. We have built and are finalizing a budget for 2014-15 that does not include a tuition increase. We are focused on growth in our enrollment and growth in our outcomes and using the resources of the university very strategically."
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