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Board of Regents OKs 7.2 percent tuition hike at ETSU

Rex Barber • Jun 29, 2012 at 10:28 PM

East Tennessee State University employees will definitely get a raise this year now that the Tennessee Board of Regents has approved a tuition hike at the school of 7.2 percent.

The tuition and fees next year for undergraduates who take 15 hours of class per semester at ETSU will be $3,498.50, an increase of $234 per semester. That would be $6,997 for a year of classes. The full Board of Regents, which governs ETSU, met Friday and approved the school’s request for a tuition increase that would help fund operations, accreditation and raises for the school’s employees.

Tuition may be increasing but ETSU President Brian Noland said the school’s cost is in line with peer schools and if students take advantage of financial aid, the cost can be significantly reduced. The trick is applying early to obtain the most financial aid possible. Financial aid for anything, including federal loans, Pell grants and Tennessee’s HOPE Lottery Scholarship is obtained through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

“Apply early,” Noland said in a recent interview. “There’s aid available, but you have to apply early. If it’s August 1 and you’re beginning the financial aid process you may have forgone the receipt of aid for that year; you could get it your second year.

Noland said rising high school seniors who intend to go to college in 2013-14 need to think now about preparing their FAFSA and planning for the costs of college. A FAFSA must be filled out to get the HOPE Scholarship, which provides up to $4,000 per year for undergraduates attending ETSU who first received the scholarship prior to 2009. For students who first received HOPE in the fall of 2009 and after, the scholarship awards up to $6,000. The exact amount depends on several factors, but regardless can significantly reduce what a student or their parents/guardians must actually pay for college.

More than 60 percent of Tennessee high school graduates have the HOPE Scholarship, Noland said.

Still, the cost of college continues to climb each year because the state continues to reduce appropriations for its colleges and universities. This burden is particularly hard on older students because not as many scholarships and grants are available to them as to traditional-age students. This is a concern for Noland.

“And that’s a group that we need more of,” Noland said. “We need more non-traditional, adult part-time students enrolling at ETSU and enrolling at our community colleges.

For years, the TBR gave a flat rate increase each year for the six universities, 13 community colleges and 27 technology centers it governs. Now schools can request more based on specific needs or projects. ETSU ended up having the highest increase this year. The largest portion of the increase will go to create a salary equity pool from which ETSU faculty and staff will get raises.

Details on how the pool will be distributed are not yet available.

“Our students come to ETSU for a world class education and it’s no secret that our faculty and staff salaries are at the bottom end in the state of Tennessee and are at the bottom end among peers, so if we’re going to retain the faculty and staff that are here and that our students love we need to make investments in our personnel,” Noland said. “And because of the means through which we fund higher education in this country, we’re looking to student revenues to help support us in making those investments in our faculty and staff.”

Noland said it took years for the pay at ETSU to get so low and it will take a long time to bring it up to the level he thinks it needs to be. He did not think the school would request as large an increase in the years going forward as was requested this year, though.

The TBR approved a fee increase of 4.2 percent for Northeast State Community College. This increase makes a 15-hour semester at the college $1,841.50, an increase of $75.

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