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Tuition rates on the rise for UTM

A press release from the University of Tennessee at Martin (UT-Martin) said tuition will be raised 9.9 percent beginning in the fall semester of 2011.

The tuition hike will cost instate students $3,359 per semester, which is an increase of $264.

Out-of-state tuition rates increased to a sum of $9,564 each semester.

Graduate students from the state of Tennessee will now pay an additional $313 per semester, totaling $3,895.

According to Deidra Beene Director of the UT-Martin McNairy County/Selmer Center, state support for UT-Martin has been reduced by a total of $8.3 million, including a 2 percent reduction in state funding for the 2011 academic year so, “students do bear a significant portion of the responsibility for closing that gap.”

The cause of these increases stems from the state cutting educational funding by 25% for the 2012 fiscal year, which causes schools to have to increase tuition rates across the board.

“Despite our best efforts to manage costs, raising tuition and fees is a painful action that is necessary given the continuing reduction in state support,” said Dr. Tom Rakes, UT-Martin chancellor.

In a report by CNN Money, Chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, John Morgan, was quoted as saying, “Unfortunately, as the state’s capacity to fund education continually erodes, students are forced to pick up the cost to provide a quality education.”

Beene, on the other hand, likes to look on the bright side of things and says that since funding has shifted from the amount of students a school has to the school’s graduation and retention rates, it could improve the quality of education in Tennessee, and should not negatively effect the center or the quality of education that is carried on there.

“If it’s used to fund additional positions, and it’s used to fund student retention and success, it’s going to be used for things that increase the value, not decrease it.”

According to Beene, other uses for the increased tuition rates include funding additional full-time instructional and support positions, which the school needs because it is growing, funding a mandated salary increase of two percent for state employees that have not seen a pay increase for years, and funding increased fixed costs like utilities, facility maintenance, faculty promotions, and inflationary increases in maintenance contracts and subscriptions. 

Beene also stressed that the center is doing all that it can to save money in any way possible.

“Everything we do here, I’m looking at how we can save the students money,” said Beene.

When fuel prices rose dramatically a few years ago the school cut out all but one Friday class, and managed to fit the hours cut from those Friday classes and put the hours cut into the classes on Monday and Wednesday, alleviating the need for students to commute to the facility more than necessary.

“It was a win-win for teachers and students. We continue to strive for quality in our programs, courses, and faculty,” said Beene. “ In every decision I make... I’m trying to think, ‘What can I do in the best interest of the students and teachers?’ and ‘How can we make it more efficient?’”

Beene remained in the glass-half-full mentality when asked if the tuition increases would affect the school’s enrollment.

“I personally don’t think so. I think more and more people realize the value of education,” Beene said. “I’m a positive person and I think your spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend may come and go, jobs may come and go, and things in your life may be chaotic, but getting a college degree is the one thing you’ll never be sorry you did.”

Beene also attributes the increase in tuition to the recession our country is currently going through.

“When state revenues go down and when businesses close, this is what happens,” said Beene. “I’m just happy we’re not at the 12 percent increase that UT-Knoxville’s getting.”

Beene also offered her opinion on how the educational funding in the state of Tennessee could be fixed.

“Waste is a big area, meaning we look at what works and we try to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t work,” said Beene. “Everybody in education needs to treat their job like they’re self-employed and keep in mind that you want the best value possible out of your product.”

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