JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A measure that would increase the yearly cost to attend East Tennessee State University moved to its next step Tuesday morning.
The ETSU Board of Trustees Finance and Administration Committee voted unanimously in favor of the proposed tuition and mandatory fee hike.
The $276 total increase would bring the yearly cost of attendance to $9,950. That’s up 2.85% from the current $9,674 approved in 2021.
In April, the full Board of Trustees will consider the tuition/fee hike.
ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland said the hike will help pay for a chunk of anticipated faculty and staff pay raises. Those raises were included in Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s proposals for the upcoming budget.
Noland said the raises and the subsequent tuition hike will help the university prioritize its employees and maintain a high quality of education.
“This is making investments in our people,” Noland said. “Any university is only as strong as the people who call it a home.”
It is the third time in the last five years that tuition has increased at ETSU.
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Noland said that two years without tuition increases still keeps the university affordable.
“In terms of out-of-pocket costs, it’s $114 per semester,” Noland said. “Two out of the last four years, we didn’t raise prices at all.”
Compared to the rest of Tennessee’s state universities, the tuition hike is still below the state average.
Noland said the board is moving on the increase now rather than over the summer to be more transparent with students and their families.
“We want to make it in the spring so that students and parents have the opportunity to plan ahead,” Noland said. “If you’re an incoming student, you know what your aid package will be.”
The hike is contingent on the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s approval of its tuition limit, which caps how much schools can increase tuition year to year.
The limit is currently proposed at 3%, meaning ETSU would be 0.15% under the limit as it stands.
Noland said if there were to be any changes to the limit before a vote on it in May, ETSU’s hike would stay the same.
“By taking our action early, we have no intent to go above and beyond what was presented to the board today,” Noland said.
Noland said other internal revenue sources would pay for the rest of the proposed staff and faculty raises. Lee’s budget proposal includes a 5% salary pool for higher education employees, which would be significant for ETSU’s employees.
“It’s the largest salary increase in decades,” Noland said. “We want to push those salary resources to those faculty and those families that need the most help as they try to wrestle with the rising costs.”
The raises would be finalized in November if the funding stays in the state budget.
Even with the potential tuition hike, Noland said he is optimistic about the fall semester.
“Our enrollment projections for the fall indicate either a constant or a small increase,” Noland said. “Our applications are running ahead of where they were last year. Our housing applications are running ahead of where they were last year.”
The full Board of Trustees will consider the tuition and fee increase at its April 21 meeting.