An increase in college tuition for the next academic year across the state has been proposed in the upcoming 2020 and 2021 state budgets.
Mike Krause, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission executive director, made the proposal for the increase to Governor Bill Lee on Nov. 5. The proposal is for a two percent increase in tuition.
According to a 2017-2018 U.S. Department of Education survey, the average cost of tuition in Tennessee is about $15,300. A 2% increase would add up to about $300 extra per year. Krause said this increase would actually be one of the lowest in the nation.
“That will be among the lowest tuition ranges in the nation,” Krause said. “Most importantly for our Tennessee families, it will push affordability even further.”
Even though a tuition increase may sound scary, it is actually quite normal. Due to inflation and ever-increasing college debt in the United States, college tuition increases every year across the nation. According to The College Board, the average tuition increase for a public four year in-state school was 2.3% while out-of-state tuition increased by 2.4%.
Even though tuitions in Tennessee may rise. It will still be at a lower rate than most states.
According to Krause, the state is able to justify this small increase due to the success of colleges in Tennessee. Most colleges across the state have seen greater graduation rates.
The increase is intended to help fund the $107 million in spending increases that Tennessee colleges are seeking. Krause said this extra funding will be distributed to different areas in the state’s colleges like upkeep for buildings and facilities and Tennessee’s higher education funding program.
Some of this funding will also be put back into funding financial aid so some students may not even be losing the money.
Tennessee is ranked as the 19th most expensive state for tuition, according to the U.S. Department of Education Survey, with average tuition being $1,200 higher than the national average.
Some students may never notice the change. Students who might be affected will be those who pay out of pocket for their classes.
Andrew Linn, Associate Director of Student Financial Aid at the University of Memphis, said that a tuition increase is a decision that universities will make themselves and it is not usually something the state will put into place.
“A lot of times, what the state will do, is they might say they will give the institution a one to two percent increase in their operating funds, whether there is actually a tuition increase or not is up to the institution,” Linn said. “A lot of times the institutions will find a way through efficiencies, automation, or technology to make the budget work without raising tuition for students.”
According to Linn, the University of Memphis has not increased tuition for the last two years, so hopefully the university will continue to avoid raising it.
The proposed increase has not been approved in the Governor Lee’s budget yet, but it will most likely go through.