UT President Warns of Tuition Tax

NASHVILLE — Without more state funding, the burden of supporting higher education will fall to its students, the president of the University of Tennessee said Tuesday.

Dr. J. Wade Gilley said it is counterproductive for Tennessee not to fund its higher education system because the state needs more college graduates to be economically competitive.

He also announced a committee that will look at cutting administrative costs and streamlining UT.

“If there is not tax reform, then Tennesseans will have no other way for their institutions to be competitive other than increase the tuition tax on students,” Gilley said at a news conference here.

“While this is one way to invest in better facilities and in technology and to compete for talented faculty and staff for the state as a whole, it is regressive and will not adequately meet the challenges of the 21st Century.”

Gilley cited a Southern Regional Education board study that Tennessee’s higher education funding has fallen 24 percent in real terms over the last 10 years while neighboring states have done much better.

Those who argue that higher education should be funded at a higher level, making it harder for families to send their children to college are not “family friendly,” Gilley said.

Tennessee is the most frugally managed state in the union and is near the bottom in per capita taxes, he said. It has much, including its schools, colleges and highways, of which to be proud.

Gilley said UT can be more productive and efficient and will do more to stretch its available dollars. UT-Memphis Chancellor Bill Rice has been appointed head of an eight-member committee that will look at ways to streamline operations.

The committee will look at structure, functions and the use of information technology, and it will recommend what must be done to reduce university administration 10 percent. The savings, Gilley said, will be reallocated to teaching, research and fellowships.