Union’s tuition increase for the 2015-2016 school year will be 2.66 percent, the lowest in 22 years.
Previous years have seen an increase of anywhere from 4.89 percent to over 9 percent. Last year’s was 5.01 percent, according to Gary Carter, senior vice president for business and financial services.
Annual tuition increases are decided internally by an administrative team composed of Carter, university president Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver and others. Before deciding, the team looks at the tuition increases of a wide range of schools, including every Southern Baptist college and every college in Tennessee.
“We want to make sure we are very competitive [in setting increases] as well as affordable,” Carter said.
He also said the decision came after much thought by the administration on how to balance affordability and an excellent, quality education.
“We are committed to trying to provide the highest level of education in an excellent manner and doing it in the most affordable way that we can,” Carter said. “We feel like the quality of the education delivered here is high, and we want to keep that balance.”
Carter also attributed the low increase to a new year with new leadership.
“I think a change in administration brings a fresh set of eyes and another look at how we compare with other institutions,” he said.
Chandler Cryer, junior teaching English as a second language and Spanish double major, is currently taking 18 credit hours and working 30 hours a week in hopes of graduating early to save money. She said she is grateful the university is giving students some relief from rising college costs.
“I really appreciate Union is thinking about how hard students work to stay here and helping students prepare for their future in an affordable way,” she said.
Melody Fitzpatrick, sophomore social work major, said she wishes the tuition increase could be even less.
“It’s great that it’s cheaper, but I wish it wasn’t increasing at all,” Fitzpatrick said.
Hunter Baker, associate provost, said while a small annual increase is necessary to keep up with inflation and fund growth and improvements, the administration does realize the difficulty of affording higher education.
“Everyone realizes parents and students feel it is tough to pay for a college education,” Baker said. “Colleges increasingly are turning to cost-cutting strategies instead of raising prices.”
His advice to students is to stay focused and be fiscally responsible.
“Concentrate on your studies so you make sure to get real value from your education,” Baker said. “Put school first. Keep your other spending low during college. And when you get out, start throwing every extra cent at the principal on your loans.”