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2010 May 17 - 12:00 am

MONEY TREE: Tenn. Regents Pondering Tuition Increases for Fall

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A pending decision could make it harder for students to get into public colleges in Tennessee by increasing tuition. The vote, expected in June, could also make it more difficult to finish school, by limiting needed classes.

The Tennessee Board of Regents, which controls public universities and community colleges outside the University of Tennessee system, is considering hikes of 6 to 11 percent.

The Tennessean reported other cost-cutting plans could make it harder for students to find needed courses and some majors could be eliminated.

“It’s a challenging financial environment for our institutions,” said Dale Sims, the regents’ vice chancellor for business and finance. “I don’t see the situation getting any better in terms of state funding.”

The Board of Regents is pondering finances after a third year of decreases in state funding and will likely vote on the tuition increases near the end of June. They could vary by institution.

“It just makes it that much more money I have to tack onto my student loans,” said Ben Reich, a junior majoring in aerospace administration at Middle Tennessee State University. Reich said his parents also need to help his two younger brother go to college.

The Regents system four-year universities include Middle Tennessee State University, University of Memphis, Tennessee State University, Austin Peay State University, Tennessee Tech University and East Tennessee State University.

There are also 13 community colleges and 26 technology centers administered by the the board.

The system will realize a savings of about $24 million per year from voluntary buyouts accepted by more than 524 teachers, administrators and staffers.

The individual schools are looking for savings that range from doing away with majors that don’t attract many students to adjusting thermostats to use less energy.

At the University of Memphis, spokesman Curt Guenther told the newspaper the first classes now begin at 7 a.m., rather than 8 a.m., allowing the university to make more use of larger classrooms. Professors are also carrying heavier instructional loads.

At Middle Tennessee State, spokesman Tom Tozer said administrators are considering axing 44 undergraduate programs and four graduate programs.

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