Tuition Only Pays For Part Of A Student’s Education, Community Colleges Tell Governor
Gov. Bill Haslam has been pitching his Tennessee Promise free community college plan around the state, like at this event in Greeneville. Credit: TN Photo Services

Tuition Only Pays For Part Of A Student’s Education, Community Colleges Tell Governor

Gov. Bill Haslam has been pitching his Tennessee Promise free community college plan around the state, like at this event in Greeneville. Credit: TN Photo Services
Gov. Bill Haslam has pitched his Tennessee Promise free community college plan around the state, like at this event in Greeneville. Credit: TN Photo Services

Many students going to community college next year will have their tuition covered by Tennessee Promise, but that only pays for a portion of what their education actually costs. As higher education officials are reminding the governor, schools rely largely on state funding to pay the difference.

While presenting a budget proposal Friday, Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan said tuition covers a little more than half of the total price tag of community college. The school still has to dish out about $3,000 per student.

“While it is absolutely fantastic that students have the ability to pay their fees, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the institutions will have the resources we need to provide the services,” he said.

Student tuition funds an increasing percentage of the budget of Tennessee Board of Regents colleges. Click to enlarge. Credit: Governor's Office
Tuition and fees from students fund an increasing percentage of the Tennessee Board of Regents budget. Click to enlarge. Credit: Governor’s Office

Morgan also points out that Tennessee Promise might attract more students who haven’t been preparing for college, meaning the school will have to provide more resources to help. That costs extra money, too.

The president of the University of Tennessee, the state’s other public higher education system, said schools are placing more of the cost burden on students, in part because state funding has decreased in recent years.

“We have a business model that’s not very sustainable. In fact, you might call it broken,” Joe DiPietro told the governor. “We can’t keep passing 6, 8 and 12 percent tuition increases.”

In response, Gov. Bill Haslam said he wants the state to have a “partnership” with public colleges and universities — the government will put in more money in exchange for colleges cutting their own expenses.


What Higher Education Wants

First, a recap. The state funds two higher education systems in Tennessee: the Tennessee Board of Regents and the University of Tennessee. TBR comprises six universities, including MTSU and TSU; all 13 public community colleges in the state; and 27 colleges of applied technology. UT has campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin, among other cities.

UT and TBR, along with the state’s higher education commission, proposed the following requests for funding for the 2016 budget:

  • $71 million extra in operating expenses, including $29 million for need-based financial aid
  • $223 million to work on property-related projects, including a $21 million expansion of the fine arts building at Austin Peay
  • $133 million in maintenance

Emily Siner

Emily Siner is an enterprise reporter at WPLN. She has worked at the Los Angeles Times and NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., and her written work was recently published in Slices Of Life, an anthology of literary feature writing. Born and raised in the Chicago area, she is a graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On Twitter: @SinerSays
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