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Tennessee's Private Colleges and Universities Strive to Keep Tuition Low


Nashville, TN— Although undergraduate students attending a private, non-profit, four-year college or university in Tennessee will see a modest increase in tuition and fees next year, they will continue to pay thousands of dollars less than students attending similar institutions in most other states. Average undergraduate tuition and fees for 2015-16 at the member institutions of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA) will increase by 2.95%, the lowest such increase in over a decade. 

Campus leaders indicate that a range of factors are driving tuition increases including employee salary and benefits, implementation of federal regulations, and ensuring that facilities and programs meet the changing needs of students.

Institutions also have committed to increasing the amount of their budgets dedicated to student aid to ensure that a private college education remains affordable. Preliminary results indicate that most institutions have increased their student aid budgets by at least the same rate, if not a greater rate, as the tuition increase. The increase in student aid is consistent with their missions to make college affordable for all qualified students seeking admission.

“TICUA institutions are steadfast in their commitment to educational opportunity and choice,” said Dr. Gary Weedman, Chair of TICUA Board of Directors and President of Johnson University. “Our institutions are affordable. In addition, we provide generous financial aid, making it possible for students to attend the college or university that best fits their individual needs.”

Through their commitment to provide affordable access to higher education, TICUA institutions serve many low-income students. Approximately 91% of first-time, full-time students attending private, non-profit colleges and universities in the State receive some form of financial support. The majority (75%) of this aid comes directly from the 34 college and university members of TICUA. The State of Tennessee provides another 13% and the federal government the remaining 12% of the aid.

Over one-third of all undergraduate students (34%) and 42% of Tennesseans attending TICUA institutions receive the federal Pell Grant, targeted to support students from low-income families.

The State’s need-based aid program, the Tennessee Student Assistance Award (TSAA) provided $21.1 million to over 5,400 low-income students attending TICUA member institutions.

Thousands of TICUA member institution students also benefit from the State’s education lottery program. In the 2014-15 academic year, over 12,000 students attending private colleges and universities participated in the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS) award program, which provided more than $54.7 million in grant aid to students at private colleges and universities.  This scholarship program, based on academic performance, awards $2,000 per semester to in-state students attending any four-year institution in Tennessee. 

Just over half (54.5%) of graduating seniors at Tennessee’s private, non-profit institutions borrowed money for education-related expenses not covered by financial aid, and they typically did so at reasonable levels. For the academic year 2012-13 graduating seniors at TICUA member institutions borrowed on average about $26,311. The national average for graduating seniors at all types of institutions was $29,400.

“It is important to recognize that almost every student attending a TICUA member campus receives some form of financial aid either from the state or federal government or, more typically, directly from the institution,” said Dr. Claude Pressnell, President of TICUA. “When you combine institutional, state, and federal aid, the actual price paid by students can be substantially lower than the published price.”

For academic year 2015-16, the average published tuition and fees, not including room and board, for undergraduate students attending a TICUA member private, non- profit, four-year institution in Tennessee will be $24,190 per year. This is expected to be considerably lower than the national average. Last year (academic year 2014-15), average tuition at Tennessee’s private, non-profit, four-year institutions was 25% less than the national average. After considering the contribution of financial aid, many students ultimately pay significantly less than the either the national or southern regional averages.

In fall 2014, TICUA member colleges and universities throughout the State enrolled nearly 80,000 students.  TICUA membership includes 31 four-year colleges and universities and 3 professional colleges.

TICUA engages Tennessee's private, non-profit colleges and universities to work collaboratively in areas of public policy, cost containment, and professional development to serve better the State and its citizens.  For more information about TICUA, please visit our website at www.ticua.org