KNOXVILLE – An unprecedented third straight year of tuition increases held to an historic low is the lead highlight in University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro’s 2017 Annual Report to the General Assembly.
“Long-term sustainable funding is our responsibility, and our goal is to achieve it while keeping college tuition affordable for all Tennesseans,” DiPietro said.
A 1.8 percent undergraduate tuition increase for the academic year 2017-2018 is the lowest since 1984 and marked three consecutive years of increases at or below 3 percent—a first since the UT system was established in 1968. In 2016, tuition increased 2.2 percent and 3 percent in 2015.
The majority of fees did not increase and, of those for which UT Trustees approved a change, the net increase at each campus ranged from 0 percent to less than 3 percent.
Starting in 2015, DiPietro took a two-year set of self-imposed University budgetary restraints to the UT Board of Trustees for approval. The measures included limiting tuition increases to no more than 3 percent, assuming 3 percent annual inflation and no increase in state appropriations.
DiPietro credits unanticipated increases in state funding in the most recent three fiscal years with critical assistance in what he calls “a partnership to deliver future opportunity through higher education.” The budgetary restraints were extended for another two years in 2017, and the same limits on tuition increases remain.
Another highlight in the 2017 report is growing momentum at Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus in Knoxville, signaled by the arrival of two private tenants—following the 2015 opening of the UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Joint Institute for Advanced Materials building. Once the second building on the research and development property opened, Civil Engineering Consultants set up shop in April and was followed in October by Arkis BioSciences, a medical device company founded and run by a UT Knoxville graduate. DiPietro says he hopes to announce the start of construction on another new building at Cherokee Farm in 2018.
In June, the special commission appointed by DiPietro in 2016 to review Title IX programs, policies and resources statewide issued its findings. The commission’s report acknowledged University efforts to provide education about and to prevent sexual misconduct, and it recommended creation of a system-wide Title IX coordinator position. That step was taken within a matter of weeks when Ashley Blamey, longtime director of UT Knoxville’s Center for Health, Education and Wellness, was appointed to the role on an interim basis while a formal search was launched.
DiPietro says he wants the University to establish the gold standard, nationally, in all of efforts around Title IX issues and compliance.
- In addition to holding undergraduate tuition increases to 3 percent or lower for three straight years, UT Chattanooga and UT Martin reduced out-of-state tuition for specific regional areas to enhance student recruitment competitiveness.
- A budget re-balancing process to re-allocate 5 percent of budgeted funds – through voluntary retirement incentives at UT Chattanooga, UT Martin and the Institute of Agriculture – achieved more than $9 million in combined savings.
- Out-of-state enrollment increased on all campuses—from 9.6 percent in fall 2014 to 10.7 percent in fall 2016 for out-of-state/international students.
- UT system-wide, all-time record $481 million in research and sponsored program expenditures in the most recent fiscal year-ended, when UT research also led to 98 patents, 166 new invention disclosures and 17 new license agreements.
- UT institutions continually are among the top five performing universities for CCTA metrics.
- In the area of UT outreach, customers and/or clients served increased 16 percent from 4.5 million in fiscal 2014 to 5.2 million in fiscal 2016.