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State lawmaker to propose tuition freeze
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NASHVILLE (AP) — A Republican state lawmaker says he wants to freeze tuition at Tennessee’s colleges and universities despite criticism from education officials that such a proposal would eliminate funds needed to sustain essential programs and basic operation.Sen. Jim Summerville of Dickson says he plans to file legislation during the next session to keep tuition at the current rates for several years.The Tennessee Board of Regents and the University of Tennessee system recently adopted tuition hikes ranging from 3 to 6 percent.“The current increases are an outrage, especially in light of this year’s increase in appropriations to ... higher education systems,” Summerville said.Gov. Bill Haslam approved more than $100 million for higher education in his budget this year.Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan said colleges and universities are grateful for the appropriation, but he said, “One year of increased funding doesn’t undo the many years worth of reduced state appropriations that have shifted the funding of public higher education away from the state and onto our students.”He said freezing tuition hikes could adversely affect essential higher education programs, as well as one of Haslam’s main education plans.The governor’s “Drive to 55” initiative is intended to increase the number of Tennesseans with at least a two-year college degree or certificate.Currently, 32 percent of Tennesseans have a two-year degree or higher, and Haslam’s goal is to raise that number to 55 percent by 2025.UT officials said in a statement extra money is needed beyond what the state provides to cover fluctuating operational and maintenance costs.“Just 10 years ago, state funds made up more than 50 percent of the University of Tennessee’s budget,” according to the statement. “Today, state funds make up about 30 percent of the University’s budget.