MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT) – Tennessee higher education has received its first increase in general operating funds from the state in a decade.
In the legislative session just concluded, Tennessee lawmakers approved Governor Haslam’s full budget request of slightly more than $1.2 billion for the state’s universities, colleges and technical schools. The appropriation includes $78.7 million in new money, an increase of about 7 percent.
The Washington D.C. based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says 48 of the 50 states reduced their contributions to higher education during the economic downturn. The Center’s Phil Oliff notes that Tennessee reduced its appropriations to higher education by more than most states, with funding off by about 30 percent.
“We’re living in a time when college attainment is increasingly important to the nation’s economic success,” Oliff says, “but tuition increases are really discouraging students from attending college; particularly students from low and moderate income families.”
Tuition at Tennessee’s public universities has increased steadily to cover the lost state funding. According to the Center, public university students in Tennessee are paying just over $1700 more per year, on average, than they were five years ago.
In spite of the increase in state appropriations, Tennessee’s college students are likely to see additional tuition increases this fall. In a report released last November, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission suggested increases were likely even if the state provided additional funds.
The higher education budget also earmarks more than $215 million for building projects, including $18.4 million for a new Academic and Support Building at Nashville Community College, and $35.4 million for the new Nissan Education and Training Facility.