UT's Advisory Board proposed budget changes and campus plans in a meeting Wednesday morning.
The seven-member board meets to submit recommendations to UT System Interim President Randy Boyd regarding campus-level strategic plans and operating budgets. Proposed tuition and fee increases, along with a proposed budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, new diversity programs, construction, and plans for increased enrollment were discussed in Wednesday's meeting.
All proposals must be approved by the Board of Trustees before going into effect.
Before the budget discussion began, former Student Government Association President and graduate of the political science department Ovi Kabir was presented with an award in recognition for his service in SGA by the advisory board, which he served on for the school year.
New advisory board member Johnelle Simpson, graduate student in the College of Law, will begin his term to replace Kabir on July 1.
Budget sees increases across the board
The proposed budget for UT's 2019-2020 school year will see a 2.4% increase over last year, accounting for the $11.8 million allocation from the state and a 2% tuition increase. The budget also includes a 2% funding pool for faculty and staff salary increases.
Over the past seven years, revenue generated from tuition, fees, and state appropriations have all remained relatively flat, even with inflation.
Chancellor’s professor and distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the faculty appointee to the board Louis Gross focused on UT's effort in funding research and how it has been a large part of increasing the university's ranking nationwide.
“Instruction has not changed that much, but research has changed drastically,” Gross said. “This has a tremendous effect on the ranking of the university through what's called HERB ... when the 2018 data comes out, it will show a tremendous increase in expenditures on research for the university and will change where UTK stands in the ranking.”
Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis said that the carryover from faculty research projects, which is money that isn't spent, inflates the probable cost of research.
“Most faculty when they're hired, get a three-year startup, but when it's allocated to them at the beginning, but they wouldn't necessarily spend it all at one time,” Davis said. “So they will have a carryover of the funds, so it does become a more impressionable number.”
Senior Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Chris Cimino said this year UT has a $7.5 million proposed capital and maintenance update which will help UT go behind the scenes to help with infrastructure throughout campus.
“We are one of the only schools in the nation, especially in the SEC, I don't know of anyone else in the SEC that receives maintenance funds,” Cimino said. “This has allowed us to do a lot of things behind the scenes, replace chillers, energy plants, electrical and steam plant infrastructure and this year, we're going to be receiving 7.5 million fire safety upgrades through many of our buildings.”
Tuition increase one of the lowest in UT's history
As outlined in the budget, student tuition prices will rise in the fall by 2%, setting the tuition total for in-state undergraduate students at $13,264 and in-state graduate students at $13,380. The increase is one of the lowest in UT's history.
“We certainly want to remain as low as possible. The Tennessee Higher Education Committee, THEC, their range for the recommendation this year was 2-2.5%,” Cimimo said. “We did not feel like we needed to go all the way to that 2.5 % level.”
The only exception is the College of Law, which will see a 2.5% increase, bringing the total in-state tuition to $20,168.
“The College of Law has a higher increase because from a competitive and a recruiting standpoint they feel that they have the ability to do that based on some of the needs they have in their college ... student success programs,” Cimino said.
Tuition will increase by about .08% for undergraduate and graduate programs for out-of-state students, and a .9% increase and a 1.3% increase for out-of-state tuition for the College of Law.
Enrollment plan, growth
David Manderscheid, provost and senior vice chancellor, spoke about UT's plan for undergraduate enrollment growth. Undergraduate enrollment saw growth, while graduate and professional enrollment remained constant over the last 10 years.
Although enrollment rates varied between 2007 to 2013, with the lowest rate of 20,807 in 2012, there has been a steady growth over the last six years, with 2018 seeing 22,815 students coming to UT.
However, UT has created a strategic enrollment plan to continue the growth of enrollment by 15% to over 25,000 students by 2022.
“This university did not have one (strategic enrollment plan) before,” Manderscheid said. “Basically, enrollment wasn't thought of as part of a larger picture like most schools do now and this is a trend. Looking at recruitment, retention and graduation of students overall, looking at how to provide the state of Tennessee with graduates it needs and meet the governor's goals, and then also thinking in terms of revenue.
“As we give away scholarships, as we recruit more students, are we in fact being able to provide the education these students need?”
The plan focuses on improving access for Tennesseans by aligning with the Drive to 55 and Complete College Tennessee, and reinforce student success and talent pipeline goals. It would also increase total net tuition revenue, fund growth in tenure-track faculty and graduate education, and contribute to long-term fiscal stability.
There is a plan to increase graduate student enrollment by 15% as well, but the plan has not been flushed out yet to be enacted, but is being looked at by the graduate dean.
The plan looks to increase first-year retention rates by 6% so that first-to-second year retention for Fall 2022 incoming class is 92% by 2022.
Davis emphasized the fact that to help increase enrollment and retention rates, there also has to be an increase in faculty growth so as to support the size of the student body.
“Our student faculty ration has not increased in the last three years. It has stayed relatively constant, but we've also just hired 24 new faculty. We've got another 20 coming on, we're monitoring that. It's a chicken and egg issue,” Davis said. “We have a goal of growing 3% ... the growth we have seen so far is balanced with what our goals are, but I totally agree with your comments. The two areas where we have to be careful is we have to make sure we grow our staff, we have to make sure we grow faculty size if our student body grows, and we have to make sure that we provide the GTAs (graduate teaching assistants) that would be appropriate.”
The 2019 projections look to be on track with a 1-2% increase in enrollment with between 5,200 to 5,300 students entering in the Fall semester and about 1,350 to 1400 students transferring to UT.
Campus Master Plan continues beautification efforts
The last item on the agenda was a campus master plan presentation by Cimino that showed the status of current and planned construction projects.
The funds for these projects are a culmination of donor funds, state appropriations and the facilities fee that students pay with in-state students paying $104 of which one portion of that goes towards construction. The funds have gone to fund many projects the last 10 years including Ayres Hall, Min Kao, Neyland Stadium and campus beautification to name a few.
In total, there are 10 current projects on campus including the Visitor's Center, Clarence Brown Carousel, the band practice field, the Concord property, campus beautification, West campus dining, the Nuclear Engineering building, the nursing building, Neyland Stadium and Thompson-Boling Arena.
The university is currently speaking with the College of Education, Health and Sciences and the Institute of Agriculture about expanding the Visitor's Center to include a creamery that would sell cheese and ice cream to visitors, in addition to the Culinary Institute and meeting spaces already in place.
The Clarence Brown Carousel project is currently in the fundraising and programming. The goal is to help repair the leaking roof, as well as add restrooms to the facility. Cimino said he and Davis looked into splitting the funds so that they would match up to $15 million of what the college raises.
The Concord property, which was acquired by the university for no cost and is located on Sutherland Avenue away from campus, will be revamped. The first step is to finish cleaning some of the fuel spillage that was left when the Tennessee Department of Transportation resided on the complex before UT can go in to either renovate or demolish some of the buildings. The project would then be to push all of the facilities that don't need to be on the core campus to this area so that the rest of campus is saved for pedestrians, green space and academic functions.
A major beautification effort is to expand Ped Walkway to extend past Fred Brown Hall to Francis Street. The extension would include pedestrian walkways, a shared bike lane and more greenery which is projected to be done in a year to a year and a half. This would eliminate the roadway for vehicles, except for UT buses which would use the shared lane to continue their routes.
The West Campus will continue to see expansion with a dining hall which has a $40 million bid. The facility would be a fresh food dining hall similar to Stokely with buffets and will also include a full-service Chick-fil-A.
Construction has already started on the Nuclear Engineering building on the far side of Neyland Stadium. Since the building is so close to Neyland, the research will be in the eastern section so that it can remain open during game days and other events, while the western side will be locked off for security purposes. The renovation of Neyland Stadium is under review again so that they can keep it under budget.
The last project that Cimino touched on which has the most priority was the extension of the College of Nursing building so that it extended into the back alleyway. Cimino reassured that the staff parking lot would not be touched. The construction would be $62 million and Cimino hopes that funding will be granted within the next two years.
Editor-in-Chief Kylie Hubbard contributed to this article.