NASHVILLE — Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) today filed the Tennessee Tuition Stability Act to control the exponential growth in tuition at Tennessee’s state colleges and universities.
Senate Bill 2306 limits tuition growth to increases in the consumer price index (CPI) and locks-in tuition for entering freshmen for four years. Any increase above and beyond the CPI would require approval from at least two-thirds of the Board of Regents or the University of Tennessee’s Board of Trustees.
“College tuition is out of control in Tennessee and everyone knows it,” said Chairman Gresham. “Any college student or their family who attended a Tennessee college or university during the last decade understands all too well the problem this bill addresses.”
“If the present rate of tuition increases were to continue, an affordable college education would soon be out of reach for all but the most affluent Tennesseans. That is simply unacceptable. Education is the great equalizer. Affordable college education is what has enabled Tennesseans throughout history to rise and succeed,” Gresham continued.
“Skyrocketing tuition places a barrier between middle and working class Tennesseans and success. It amounts to a tax increase on the American dream. Tennessee families keep their budgets in check by tightening their belts and keeping their priorities in order. Tennessee colleges and universities must do likewise,” she added.
Over the past 20 years, in-state tuition and required fees have increased 456 percent at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Over the same period, a family at Tennessee’s median household income has gone from paying 7.3 percent of their income in tuition and required fees for a four-year degree at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville to 28.7 percent today.
Under the Tennessee Tuition Stability Act of 2016, the Tennessee Board of Regents or the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees would be prohibited from increasing in-state undergraduate tuition or fees at a four-year institution above the increase in the CPI without a vote of the full board. If a proposed increase is less than the most recent annual percentage change in the CPI plus two percent, it would require a supermajority of the board voting in favor. An increase greater than two percent of CPI would require a unanimous vote.
The bill would also freeze for four years the tuition and required fees for incoming freshmen.
“As a supporter of Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative, I believe it is imperative to address this issue now. Keeping college affordable is critical to reaching and ultimately exceeding that important goal,” Gresham concluded.