Education leaders concerned about tuition increase

By Julie Fann
star staff

Although leaders in higher education are glad a continuation budget was adopted by the Tennessee Board of Regents on Monday, they are also worried their schools will not see a relief from large tuition increases. Students will be required to pay 7.5 percent more than last year, according to the new state budget.
   "I am concerned that, as tuition costs continue to rise, there will be a problem. They have risen 49.5 percent in the past six years. It's really a fast, large increase and that's where my concern is," Paul Stanton, president of East Tennessee State University, said yesterday.
   The Regents voted 11-2 for the tuition and fee increases to help fund a unanimously approved $1.48 billion budget for fiscal year 2002-2003. New rates at the Regents' 45 schools were necessary to keep services at essentially the same level as last year.
   The "status quo" budget approved earlier this month by the General Assembly increased higher education spending by only $15 million. If the state had approved a proposed budget that cut higher education funds, school officials would have been forced to consider tuition increases of around 15 percent for a second consecutive year.
   "We needed $3.4 million to stay on plane between what we receive from the state and tuition that comes in. The new budget brought that total to $3 million," Stanton said. The DOGs budget would have resulted in a $5.2 million loss for the university, according to Stanton.
   Although the budget has been restored, ETSU will not be able to add any new class sections or adopt any additional courses because there isn't the revenue to make those changes. Stanton said he does anticipate enrollment will be up by three percent, an increase of 300 students.
   Bill Lock, president of Northeast State Technical Community College, also said it is unfortunate that so much of the financial burden of education is falling on the backs of students. "It's a necessity sort of like a necessary evil. I hope it won't have a negative impact. Our students will pay only $112 more this year but, of course, it gets to costing more and more," he said.
   Students who attend the Tennessee Technology Center in Elizabethton will be paying just $21 more per quarter with the increase, according to Jerry Patten, director. "Of course, they still have to buy books and supplies, and those costs vary from department to department," he said. Also, with the sales tax added to textbooks, that will mean an additional expense.
   Don Samples, director of the Nave Center, said recruiting students into allied health programs, which is the school's focus, is difficult even without a raise in tuition. "There's a national shortage of students going into those professions, so raising tuition doesn't help. In the end, the students suffer."
   Samples said it's not unusual for students to receive financial aid and work in the evenings to help pay bills. Now, school loan payments will be higher and students won't see the justification for paying the increased cost for going into a health-related profession.
   "It makes us work harder to get scholarship programs up and running to help these students out," Samples said.