The cost of college in Tennessee could be rising

Rick Wagner • Jun 6, 2019 at 1:30 PM

NASHVILLE  — The total cost of attending a community college or technology center in Tennessee may be going up almost 2.5 percent for the 2019-20 school year.

The Tennessee Board of Regents later this month is to consider combined tuition and fee increases at the state’s community and applied technical colleges averaging 2.45 percent at its June 21 quarterly meeting, under recommendations approved June 4 by the board’s Finance and Business Operations Committee.

The board will consider the committee’s recommendations and set tuition and fees for the 2019-20 academic year at its quarterly meeting June 21, at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin. Complete tuition and fee details for the individual colleges are posted on the TBR website at tbr.edu/board/june-quarterly-board-meeting-0, as part of the June 4 Finance Committee materials.

For an academic year, tuition and mandatory fees for Tennessee residents would range from $4,504 to $4,588 at the community colleges and $3,937 at the TCATs if the full board approves the committee’s recommendations. Many students, however, attend free of tuition and mandatory fees through the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect programs and other state and federal financial assistance.

The committee’s recommendations would raise tuition by $102 and mandatory fees by $7 per academic year (two semesters), for a total increase of $109, at the community colleges.Tuition at the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology would rise by $75 per academic year (three trimesters) and mandatory fees by $19, for a total increase of $94, if the committee’s recommendations are approved. Mandatory fees are paid by all students attending a particular college.

In the region, the increases would affect Northeast State Community College based in Blountville with satellite campuses including Kingsport and Johnson City; TCAT-Elizabethton; Walters State Community College with satellite campuses including Surgoinsville and Greeneville; and TCAT-Morristown. Combined, Northeast’s cost  would go up to $4,560 a year, a 2.45 percent increase, while Walters State would increase to $4,537 or a 2.46 percent increase and the TCATs would go to $3,937 or a 2.45 percent increase.

The proposed tuition and fee increases would total 2.45 percent at the TCATs and between 2.44 and 2.48 percent at the community colleges, which is the lowest percentage increase at the community colleges since 1991 and at the technical colleges since 2013, according to a news release from TBR spokesman Rick Locker.

The board invites public comment on the proposed tuition and fee increases. Comments may be submitted on the TBR website at https://www.tbr.edu/general/public-comments.

The fee increases recommended are specifically technology access fees, which have not been increased since 2003. The technology fees would rise by $3.50 per semester, to $116, at the community colleges, and by about $6 per trimester, to $73, at the TCATs if approved.

College presidents who sought the technology fee increase said that in addition to inflation cost increases there has been a significant increase in the dependency and use of technology in classrooms and labs, as well as in providing various support services to students in the 16 years since the last technology access fee hike. The colleges are also investing more in cyber security for the protection of their networks and data.

The tuition increase is recommended largely to pay for some inflationary cost increases, the institutions’ share of a 2 percent compensation increase approved by the state legislature, and at the community colleges, a special initiative to increase pay for adjunct faculty.

TBR governs the 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology comprising the College System of Tennessee.