Governor Bill Haslam serves on the Board of Trustees at the University of Tennessee, and he has said on the one hand that our State universities need to find some other way to raise the funds they need aside from piling more of a burden on cash-strapped students, many of whom are going into debt to pay for their education. On the other hand, Haslam says that he will “probably” vote for the massive proposed 12% hike in tuition at the Knoxville campus. While tuition at Tennessee’s flagship university goes through the roof compared to where it has been, Trustees and Chancellor Jimmy Cheek are justifying the move by citing a decrease in State funding and saying that a UT education is still ranked as a tremendous “value” compaired to other prestigious State universities. Of course while tuition increases will make a college education less affordable, things appear to be getting more affordable for Chancellor Cheek, who will get an increase in salary of $27,600, making his total salary a comfortable $372,600. That nearly $28,000 pay hike is as much as many families who send their children to the University of Tennessee make in a year.
We often hear people talk about the rising cost of education and say that there is no choice to to engage in these kinds of tuition hikes since the cost of delivery of the educational product has increased so dramatically over the years. However, it has always been more than a bit curious that both tuition and salaries at public universities (and indeed, at most private ones who accept public money) have skyrocketed as the infusion of massive amounts of federal monies in the form Pell Grants, federally-backed student loans, and other federal cash has made its way into the higher education system. Rather than use the funds as they were intended-to keep the cost of education down and make it affordable for the average family-most public universities, including the University of Tennessee, have raised tuition steadily at the same time the federal dollars that were pumped into higher education have increased over the years, according to Dr. Richard K. Vedder of the Independent Institute.
So while more students go into debt to pay for their education, the reality is that many of the people in charge at UT and other institutions are getting fat off of the proceeds of our collective tax dollars which they claim we don’t give them enough of. Meanwhile, students and their working families are who get the short end of the educational stick.