UT Knoxville Proposes Differential Tuition for Students in Three Colleges

 

KNOXVILLE — Three colleges at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, would charge extra tuition per credit hour, under a plan being proposed by Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek.

The plan was outlined at the UT Board of Trustees’ Trusteeship Committee and Executive and Compensation Committee meeting on Jan. 20. If approved by the Board of Trustees in February, the differential tuition program would go into effect at the beginning of the fall semester 2010.

Under the plan, juniors and seniors in the Colleges of Nursing, undergraduates taking business courses and all students taking engineering courses would pay differential tuition – that is, a supplemental per-credit-hour charge in addition to university tuition. These differential tuition charges would increase in the future at the same percentage rate as university tuition increases. The extra funds are needed because those three colleges are facing extraordinary growth and need additional staffing and state-of-the-art technology to keep pace with the demand.

“UT graduates in business, engineering and nursing are among the most employable college graduates in the state; these areas are where there are jobs – well-paying jobs,” Cheek said. “Consequently, student demand for these areas of study is outpacing our ability to accommodate students. Without this differential tuition, we will have to limit enrollment in these areas.

“Officials in all three colleges have spoken with groups of their students and have gotten tremendous support for these plans,” he said. “UT Knoxville students realize they are getting a top-notch education at an affordable price. Students tell us they want to maintain, and grow, the caliber of their education because they know a UT Knoxville degree is a tremendous asset to their future.”

Cheek said many of UT’s peer institutions already charge differential tuition in these areas.

Here is a detailed look at each college’s differential tuition proposal:

College of Nursing

The college would charge juniors and seniors an extra $90 per credit hour.

Juniors in nursing take 30 credits per year and seniors take 31 credits per year. At those levels, juniors and seniors would pay an extra $2,700 and $2,790 per year, respectively. That amounts to an extra $5,490 for the two years.

UT nursing students now pay undergraduate tuition and fees of $6,850 per year. The differential tuition would push that amount to $9,550 for juniors and $9,640 for seniors.

Elsewhere in Tennessee, nursing students’ annual tuition now ranges from $6,343 per year at East Tennessee State University – the only school with tuition lower than UT Knoxville — to $22,360 per year at Belmont University.

Many colleges and universities nationwide already charge differential tuition for nursing students. Fees and surcharges are also common. For example, nursing students at the University of Arizona pay $8,358 per year plus a $383 per semester surcharge; students at West Virginia University pay $12,692 per year plus a fee of $150 per semester; and students at the University of Pittsburgh pay $14,104 per year plus lab fees of $35 to $70 per course.

UT’s nursing curriculum consists of two years of prerequisite courses, such as English, science, math and humanities, followed by two years of upper-division nursing courses.

The College of Nursing currently admits 96 students per year. Plans are to increase enrollment by eight students next year and eight more students the next year. By 2010, the college will have 200 students in its upper-division nursing courses.

Based on that number, the College of Nursing anticipates net revenue from the differential tuition to be $548,640 per year. That money would be used to hire 2.5 new faculty members and upgrade technology.

Joan Creasia, dean of the College of Nursing, said the cost of educating nurses is high because the college is mandated to have a faculty-student ratio of 1-to-8 and hospitals are pressing for a 1-to-6 ratio.

“Although there is a current nursing shortage which is projected to worsen over the next decade, there is no shortage of applicants seeking admission to the College of Nursing,” Creasia said. “We had more than 500 applicants for our fall 2009 freshman class who indicated they wanted to major in nursing. During the past several years, applications from juniors who want to be in our clinical nursing major have outnumbered available slots nearly 3-to-1. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to accommodate the demand; enrollment in the College of Nursing clinical major has been limited by available fiscal resources.”

Also, Creasia notes, hospitals that provide students with their clinical education mandate the college maintain a faculty-student ratio of 1-to-8.

College of Business Administration

The college would charge all undergraduates taking business courses an extra $50 per credit hour.

For students taking a typical full load, the differential tuition will equate to an additional $700 in the sophomore year and $1,200 in each of the junior and senior years. It will result in about $3,100 in differential tuition for a business major over the three years in which a student takes business courses. For a business minor, the total amount will be about $1,200 over the three years the student takes business courses.

In the past five years, the number of undergraduates studying business has more than doubled, from 2,516 to 5,135, while the number of faculty in the college has declined by six.

Funds from the differential tuition will prevent the college from having to reduce faculty when stimulus funding goes away in 2011-12. The funding will be used to hire eight new tenure-track faculty and nine new non-tenure faculty.

The college also would hire four new undergraduate advisers and one new career placement staff member. At UT Knoxville now, the student-to-adviser ratio is 1-to-978 — compared to 1-to-712 at the University of Florida; 1-to-500 at the University of Alabama; and 1-to-233 at the University of Georgia.

The differential tuition will raise about $4.5 million and “will allow us to keep up with the growth that we expect to continue without infringing on the budgets of other units on campus or requiring us to significantly reduce the number of students majoring and minoring in business,” college Dean Jan Williams said.

Differential tuition in businesses schools is common at many colleges and universities across the country.

“In the SEC, the universities of Arkansas, Kentucky and Alabama and Auburn University are examples of schools that currently have undergraduate business fees or differential tuition, and the University of South Carolina differential is approved for 2010-11,” Williams said. “When considered in the context of the HOPE Scholarship for UT undergraduate students, a UT degree in business provides significant value at a relatively low cost.”

About $500,000 received from differential tuition funds would be used to augment instruction in other courses that business majors are required to take, fund computer hardware and software improvements, and provide other forms of educational enrichment.

College officials said they plan to solicit private monies for scholarships for business majors who may need assistance.

College of Engineering

For eight years, the College of Engineering has charged differential tuition of $25 per credit hour on the first eight hours of coursework. The college’s new proposal would increase that by $20 — to $45 per credit hour for all engineering courses taken by undergraduate and graduate students.

The differential tuition will mean about $680 per year, or about $2,700 for a student completing a four-year degree.

“Our differential tuition was established to cover the costs of laboratory courses, and purchase critical equipment and engineering software – all to ensure that engineering students are ready to enter the workplace with the tools needed to compete in a technological world that is rapidly advancing in complexity,” Dean Wayne Davis said. “In the past eight years, substantial increases in the costs of software, equipment and instruction tools have often surpassed that of inflation.”

Also, during the past five years, undergraduate enrollment in the College of Engineering has increased by 18 percent and number of doctoral students has increased by 37 percent. At the same time, however, there has been little or no increase in full-time tenure track or tenured faculty.

Davis said a survey done last year by the SEC Deans’ Group that found that differential tuition at SEC engineering schools now ranges from $35 to $50 per credit hour – which means UT’s proposed $45-per-credit-hour charge will be in line with other schools in the region

The College of Engineering has about 3,000 students, or about 11 percent of UT Knoxville’s enrollment. The college’s current projected enrollment growth is 25 to 30 percent over the next five years.

Based on fiscal year 2009 student credit hours, the proposed differential tuition would raise about $2 million.

The money would be used to add faculty lines; enhance program advising and career services, including programs to provide students with greater access to international exchange programs; provide state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories, as well as access to software and tools that graduates will encounter in the work world; provide enhanced research experiences and offer need-based scholarships for students.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu)

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