Surely This isn’t the Path to More College Graduates

See the guy in that robe, he's helping make it harder for you to graduate
There’s still a lot to assess from this years session, but since Higher Ed. came up yesterday, I thought I’d take a moment to address it. Not everything that came out of session was bad for college students, but it definitely came at a cost to them.

The one thing that college students will most like is the extension of lottery scholarships into the summer. This will most certainly make it easier for students to finish their studies faster, and hopefully encourage institutions to provide a more robust set of course offerings.

This, of course, comes at a cost. Now, instead of a solid 5 years of scholarships from the state, the legislature has capped it at 120 hours. While 120 hours is what it takes to receive a degree, most students graduate with around 135 hours, meaning that last full semester while you’re dealing with the fallout of changing your major will come completely out of your pocket. Plan wisely.

The tuition hike was was part of the Governor’s budget from the day it left his desk. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. When you send a budget down, with a cut of $13m in funding for Regents institutions, you’re saying “I’m raising your tuition”. Here’s the money quote from the Knox News Sentinel

Haslam’s budget likely will grow, too, before and after it takes effect July 1, either by legislative action, unanticipated federal money or other actions.

For example, the governor proposes to cut state appropriations to higher education by about 2 percent, or more than $20 million. The University of Tennessee’s reduction is $7 million; the Board of Regents system, $13 million.

But the budget leaves the UT and Regents governing boards free to raise tuition and fees as they wish to cover the cut. The tuition increase – almost certain at some level – will be added to the budget total.

And that’s exactly what they did, as reported here.

Yesterday, University of Memphis President Shirley Raines sent out the following letter regarding the tuition increase:

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:

The Business and Finance Committee of the Tennessee Board of Regents met today to recommend tuition and fee increases at all TBR-governed public universities and community colleges for the 2011-12 academic year. These recommendations will be presented to the full TBR board at its quarterly meeting on June 24, 2011.

The committee has recommended a tuition increase of 11% for U of M students beginning fall 2011. This means that an in-state undergraduate student taking a full academic course load (12 hours) will pay $3,690 per semester in tuition. An in-state graduate student taking a full course load (10 hours) will pay $4,020 per semester. Even so, we expect to remain below the peer average for in-state undergraduate tuition, once peer increases are known.

Adequate funding is necessary for the University of Memphis to continue its primary goals of providing a high quality education and graduating our students in a timely manner. Still, it is unfortunate that our students must continue to bear the responsibility for closing the gap in state funding and our funding requirements.

For each of the last three years, state funding for higher education has been reduced by a total of $33.4 million and it will be reduced by another $8.5 million in the upcoming fiscal year. This equates to a 34% reduction in state funding, or more than $41.9 million.

Despite the reduction in state funds, our vital needs remain the same. We must provide adequate support for:

• Student success towards graduation
• Full-time faculty positions
• A state mandated salary increase of 3% for all higher education employees (first increase in four years)
• Rising fixed costs – electricity prices are projected to increase 17% for the upcoming year with the new MLGW rate plan.
• Facility maintenance – estimated deferred maintenance is $127 million

The University of Memphis continues to take numerous steps to control costs while keeping student access and reasonable fees as high priorities. These steps include a Voluntary Buyout, a Faculty Retirement Incentive Plan, process improvement initiatives, and streamlining, consolidating and reorganizing offices and services to gain efficiencies in our operations and programs.

We thank our alumni, friends and the community for their continued support as we work to offset these reductions.

Sincerely,

Shirley C. Raines, President

One last thing to College students.

Elections matter, as evidenced by the massive increases in tuition thanks to seemingly small cuts in Higher Education budget. But this legislature may have made it harder for students to participate in elections thanks to SB0772 which changes requirements regarding voter registration and SB0016 which mandates a state issued photo ID, though a student ID does not apply.

I’ll have more on this and the many other bad bills that were passed in the future. Just wanted students to know, while they were getting screwed on the tuition front, they were also being screwed on the electoral power front as well.

One thought

  1. Not every student receives the Hope Scholarship. Please don’t assume that every deserving student automatically has the Hope money to help them with these tuition hikes. My son didn’t realize that he MUST go directly into the state college of his choice after his high school graduation. Instead he graduated from high school early in January 2008 and wanted to attend a nine month course at the School of Audio Engineering (SAE) in Nashville. After completing the SAE classes with honors he enrolled at Volunteer State College to begin his University Parallel core classes. At this time he was told he no longer qualified for any Hope money as he had attended an alternative school before entering the Tennessee state school system. This is an extremely misunderstood stipulation. Unfair, yes of course, and just one more way to keep scholarship money from deserving students. Now as my son plans to transfer his 54 earned credit hours from Volunteer State to another Tennessee state school he finds that the curriculum doesn’t agree and he will lose many of the hours he has paid for. Tennessee needs to stop putting up road blocks at every intersection for those who are working very hard to maneuver this maze.

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