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UM tuition up 18 percent from two years ago

By Christopher Whitten
On August 11, 2012

  • ReStore cashier Johnnie Carr (right) assists customer Daphne Hull (left) at checkout. Proceeds from sales in the ReStore go to support Habitat for Humanity’s mission in Memphis. Photo By Christina Holloway | staff


The Tennessee Board of Regents voted to increase University of Memphis tuition by 7 percent, one of the largest hikes in the TBR system. 

Nationwide, the average tuition at four-year colleges rose 15 percent between 2008 and 2010, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Education.

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama "put colleges and universities on notice," telling institutions to find a way to stop tuition from going up or risk losing federal aid money. 

Raines said the U of M is far from that point. The U of M continues to remain below the peer average for tuition, according to the Southern Regional Educational Board.

"We are still much more affordable than a lot of colleges," Raines said. 

A state-by-state report, "Leaders & Laggards," prepared by a division of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, rates Tennessee as one of the 10 worst states for efficiency and cost effectiveness.

The Regents system has increased tuition at its universities every year since 1984. Last year, U of M tuition increased by 11 percent. 

According to an email sent out by Raines' office, state funding for the University has been cut 41.7 million over the past four years and will be cut another 1.8 million in the upcoming fiscal year. 

"Hopefully, as the economy recovers and the tax revenue is generated, the priorities can be looked at for higher education because higher education leads to jobs," Raines said.

She said she is grateful for the Tennessee HOPE Lottery Scholarship, which took $2,000 off tuition last year for more than 10,000 students who graduated from Tennessee high schools and met eligibility requirements.

"Nobody enjoys raising tuition," TBR Chancellor John Morgan said after adjourning the Regents' quarterly meeting, held at Southwest Tennessee's Macon Cove campus. 

He said tuition increases "reflect the reality of our funding circumstances," including cuts in state funding while operating costs continue to rise. One of the costs is a state-mandated 2.5 percent pay raise for all staff at Tennessee institutions.

One student at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville is petitioning Chancellor Jimmy Cheek's pay raise amid an 8 percent tuition increase.

 "The petition isn't about changing the tuition increase, and it isn't about the job Cheek has done as chancellor," Andrew Doss, the petition's creator, said. "It's really just the principle. He shouldn't be put in a better position when students are being put in a worse position."

Raines will also get a raise Monday, when her annual salary increases $7,668 to $314,451. No petition has been started at the U of M.

Social media professor Carrie Brown acknowledged the poor timing for teacher raises in a series of tweets last month.

"It's official...tuition to rise 7% this fall at University of Memphis. Unacceptable lack of investment in our young people," Brown tweeted shortly after the TBR's actions were reported. 

"Salary hike for U of M faculty and staff needed to maintain quality education, but right on top of tuition hike makes us look like a-holes," another of her tweets read.

"Last year 1% and this year 2.5. Certainly grateful but the overall situation is just bad."

Including the U of M, there are six universities, 13 community colleges and 27 technology centers in the TBR system.

This year, undergraduate students at the U of M who take 12 credit hours and live in-state will pay $3,952 per semester, up $257. Graduate students taking 10 hours and living in-state will see a 7 percent increase to $4,981 per semester. 

The U of M is looking to have its own governing board, similar to the system at the University of Tennessee, instead of being governed by TBR.  

Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam wants to review higher education financing, construction needs and governance, which includes the possibility of greater autonomy for the U of M. He is preparing a piece of legislation to present to the state asking to give the U of M its own governing board and the power to set its own tuition.

"I think the University of Memphis needs more autonomy. I think the board of the University of Memphis should be able to hire and fire their own president, they should be able to set their own tuition," Haslam told The Commercial Appeal last year.

He said he was "probably going to focus on higher education more than anything else from now until the end of the year."

Student Government Association President Russell Born said the U of M would benefit from having its own board because it would focus solely on the needs of the University.

"The SGA will make a strong case this year for us to have our board similar to the University of Tennessee that can focus solely on the needs of this University, especially in wake of the rising tuition," Born said. 

Editor in Chief Chelsea Boozer contributed to this story

By the numbers

7 percentage of this year's tuition increase 
28 number of consecutive years tuition has risen
10,778 number of undergraduates who received Tenn. HOPE Lottery Scholarship last year
2.5 percentage of state-mandated pay raise for all staff at Tenn. institutions 


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