State Senator Wants Tuition Freeze, Lower Coach Pay
by Mark Bellinger
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A Tennessee State Senator has proposed a tuition freeze at the state's colleges and universities to stop placing so much of the financial burden on students.
Republican Senator Jim Summerville said a tuition freeze would be just part of his plan. He also wants to make some administrative cuts and cut college coach's salaries.
Students NewsChannel5 talked to said they couldn't remember the last time they didn't see an increase.
Ronald Mathews just graduated from Tennessee State University and hoped to attend graduate school.
"Every year the tuition goes up it leaves us students in situations where we barely can live. We have to work two and three jobs, plus go to school, so it's hard," said Mathews.
Tuition at TSU went up year just 1.4 percent, the lowest increase in years. At other schools it's a different story. Students at Middle Tennessee State University students will see a 5.7 percent hike. Tuition at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville was expected to rise 6 percent.
"In the last decade, we've had a 62 percent increase in tuition at colleges and universities. That's outrageous," said Summerville.
The Dickson republican said he believes part of the answer is to freeze tuition at the current levels for several years.
Summerville said he has been working on legislation called the Tennessee College Students' Tuition Relief Act. Still in the drafting stage, the legislation would include administrative cuts and across the board cuts in other areas like what colleges and universities pay athletic coaches.
"This is not going to be popular, but we're also paying football coaches and others a lot of money compared to what Tennessee folks learn in places like Dickson, Humphreys and Robertson Counties," said Summerville.
The senator said it would be a good idea to let students keep the same tuition from the day they enter school as freshmen to when they graduate.
His proposal has come on the heels of extra funding approved by state lawmakers and Governor Bill Haslam. They increased funding to higher education for the first time in more than a decade, but it wasn't enough.
Mathews said the burden on students is too much.
"They need to put the bills on somebody because we can't handle it. We need a break. Students need a serious break," he said.
Students said the rising cost of tuition was hitting their pocketbooks after they graduate. A recent Bloomberg News College Board study found more than half of students who graduate need to pay back almost $24,000 in loans.
Senator Summerville said something needs to be done.