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VOL. 35 | NO. 24 | Friday, June 17, 2011




Haslam expects to approve higher ed tuition hikes

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam doesn't plan to stand in the way of proposed tuition hikes at Tennessee's two higher education systems.

The Republican governor is scheduled to attend the University of Tennessee's board of trustees meeting in Knoxville on Thursday, where tuition hikes are on the agenda.

Haslam said earlier this week that he wants the schools to find longer-term solutions to their funding pressures, but that he expects to vote for the tuition increases for the upcoming academic year.

"I probably will," he said. "I haven't gone to the meetings yet ... but I think I would intend to say I would."

The University of Tennessee system has proposed a 12 percent hike in tuition at the flagship campus in Knoxville, and 10 percent increases at the Martin and Chattanooga campuses.

Tuition increases at community colleges and four-year schools in the Board of Regents system are pegged at between 9 percent and 12 percent.

"We've been having conversations and I think both systems understand that pricing middle class families out of education is an issue," Haslam said. "Part of their issue is that the state is giving them less and less money. That's just a reality."

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis said the tuition increases are driven by the governor's spending plan.

"The tuition increases the students are having to pay are a direct result of the budget that he proposed," Kyle said. "Every person who voted for that budget knew that real clear. This wasn't a secret as to what this would mean for tuition increases.

"That was the proposal as expressed by the Republican majority."

The governor said he plans to tell the boards of both systems to conduct a thorough evaluation of their "cost structure," and repeated former Gov. Phil Bredesen's call on public schools to develop outside fundraising opportunities.

Haslam stressed that tuition pressures aren't a new development at state schools as the state share of funding has decreased over the last three decades.

"Part of their issue is that the state is giving them less and less money. That's just a reality," he said.

"We didn't get into this situation overnight," he said. "And we can't just beat them to death because, like I said, we continued to decrease their funding."

Haslam on Wednesday named J. Brian Ferguson and Tommy G. Whittaker as new voting trustees on the University of Tennessee board. Ferguson is the former chairman and CEO of Eastman Chemical Co., and Whittaker is the president and CEO of First Farmers Bancshares in Portland. They will join the 26-member panel in July.

The governor also reappointed attorney Spruell Driver Jr. and named Janet Mary Rasmussen-Wilbert as the faculty trustee and Teresa K. Fowler as the student trustee. The student and faculty slots are nonvoting positions.

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