UT President: Higher Ed Budget Step In Right Direction

KNOXVILLE — The Tennessee General Assembly’s passage of the 2006/2007 higher education budget on Friday is an important step for the state’s colleges, universities and students, according to University of Tennessee president John Petersen.

“The budget that legislators are sending to the governor puts $34 million in new money into campuses across the state and, from UT’s perspective, provides new operations funding for the first time in five years to our non-formula units—the Institute of Agriculture, the Institute for Public Service, the Health Science Center and our Space Institute in Tullahoma,” Petersen said.

“Importantly,” Petersen added, “this will enable us to keep tuition increases at or below 4.6 percent. Actual increases require action by our board of trustees at the board’s upcoming June meeting, but we are committed to keeping increases in that range for the coming year.”

The budget also represents “a step in the right direction,” according to Petersen, who said higher education still has not recovered from the distress of 9 percent cuts that occurred a few years ago. While the newly passed budget keeps UT even with last year, the university faces record high enrollment, rising energy costs and the impact of inflation, Petersen added.

Still, the legislature’s funding for higher education is critical, he said.

“We are grateful to the members of the General Assembly and to the Administration,” Petersen said, “most particularly, the leadership of Senator (Jamie) Woodson in her role as Senate Education Committee chair.”

Upon the conclusion of the legislative session a year ago, Petersen and his administration promised legislators and the governor to involve them in the university’s budget process early and fully inform them of UT’s needs. In February, Petersen testified before the Senate Education Committee that without new appropriations, an anticipated fee increase of 8 to 10 percent would be necessary to keep funding even.

“Our hope is that this will be a beginning point for further dialogue and study that will lead to growth opportunity in the future,” Petersen said.