The Tennessee Board of Regents has announced a 5 percent increase for the coming year for community colleges, including Cleveland State.
Lee University, a private Christian school, will have a 4.7 percent increase in tuition.
Lee University Vice President for Enrollment Phil Cook said tuition increases are decided on by the university president and the president’s cabinet, and are approved by the board of directors.
“There is an annual budget review that takes place and in that process tuition and fee recommendations are made,” Cook said.
He said before any tuition increase, the potential impact on students is considered.
The economy and changes in financial aid also impact rising tuition costs.
“We are working hard to keep our costs down,” Cook said.
At Cleveland State Community College, the total tuition and fees for a student taking 15 credits a semester is projected to be $1,835.50.
Cleveland State President Carl Hite said students pay a reduced rate per credit hour for any above the 12 credits needed for full-time student status.
“The board is slowly increasing the cost of these hours,” he said.
While 12 credits is considered a full-time student, Hite said it is impossible for students to graduate on time if they only take 12 credits a semester. This is why he speaks in terms of a 15-credit-hour student when discussing tuition and fees.
Cook said the university uses the yearly tuition cost for a full-time student as its comparison to other universities. The yearly cost will be $12,720. For the entire year including fees, room and board, the cost will be “just under $20,000,” Cook said.
“We don’t want to price ourselves out of students looking for an outstanding academic experience in a Christ-centered environment,” Cook said. “We believe that a Lee University education is affordable, relatively speaking, and it is absolutely worth it.”
According to Cook, Lee University is fifth in enrollment among members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Yet, Lee trails only one of these universities in being the least expensive among them.
“As a private institution, we are very proud of the fact that we are one of the least expensive private schools in the country,” Cook said. “In this region, we are the least expensive private school.”
Lee University students will also see slight increases in fees and residence hall costs.
“In all are fees, I think only two of them were raised at all,” Cook said.
Residence hall increases varied on the style of the dorms. Increases ranged from $10 to $50.
When looking at the cost of college, Hite said it is important to look at the net cost to a student not just the tuition price.
Net cost to a student is the cost of tuition and fees beyond what is covered by scholarships and grants.
“We are the only college … in Southeast Tennessee that in spite of the increase in tuition increase, the net cost has decreased in the past two years,” Hite said.
A main contributor to lower net cost to students has been the implementation of the bradleyAchieves program made possible by Allen Jones. The bradleyAchieves program ensures that high school seniors from Bradley Central High School, Cleveland High School and Walker Valley High School will have their first two years of higher education paid for.
“No one should say they can’t afford college,” Hite said.
Instead anyone wanting to pursue education needs to research funds available to make it happen, he said.
“I think we are a gem in this community, but we have to be affordable to people [for them] to come play here, so to speak,” Hite said.
He said Cleveland State has many staff members who can help potential students find ways to pay for college.
All of the federal scholarships, such as the Pell grant, available to students can be used at Lee University. In addition, many students are from Tennessee and can benefit from the state’s scholarship programs.