Student Loan Forgiveness and Tuition Increases in Tennessee
Which direction have tuition prices in the Volunteer State gone over the past ten years?
One long month ago, President Joe Biden made his case to the Supreme Court. In a three-hour session with the nine justices, his legal team attempted to justify the U.S. Department of Education’s announced plan of forgiving up to $20,000 in student loan debt for millions of borrowers; a tab which would cost the government nearly $400 billion over ten years.
The Supreme Court met his arguments with dutiful skepticism. Executive overreach, some said. Others, Amy Coney Barrett, questioned whether the state attorneys involved had substantial standing. Still others, the more left-of-center judges, asserted that it was exactly in President Biden’s power, with ice cream in hand and aviators well-adjusted, to discharge large sums of education debts.
As millions of Americans wait with not-so-bated breath, knowing the more conservative-leaning Supreme Court will likely strike down the forgiveness plan, it’s worthwhile to ponder the question—why, in fact, has college become so unaffordable? According to Education Data Initiative, average costs for college tuition have increased 130% since 1990; they’ve risen 425% when not accounting for inflation. Over the last ten years, they’ve risen 18%.
Many blame the greedy executive types running the universities, and this cannot be denied. From 2020-2021, the total revenues at “degree-granting postsecondary institutions” were $695 billion. That, of course, doesn’t include the often billion-dollar endowments many top-tier universities receive. Why then, must tuition be so expensive? The leaders of these institutions would inevitably say, “it’s not that simple,” or “there are other factors at play.” Indeed.
The one other “factor” worth considering is the government’s own hand in the problem. The feds keep raising the bar for how much a student can borrow for education. Back in the mid-1980s, the government had a $2,500 limit on the amount that a student could borrow. Now? A maximum of $12,500 each year can be borrowed. What happens then, is colleges, who are “greedy,” keep raising tuition, because, well, they can; the checks will always be paid. Students can’t afford the tuition, but it doesn’t matter, because the government can and will pay the bill.
That, combined with the collective suicidal willingness of millions of Americans to sign up for these loans, is how a country arrives at nearly $1.75 trillion in collective student loan debt. To compare, the United States has a collective credit card debt of $986 billion as of 2022.
So, how much has tuition increased at Tennessee universities?
TENNESSEE AND THE COST OF ITS EDUCATION
It begs the question. Where does Tennessee stand in terms of college education? Compiling data from College Tuition Compare and College Calc, I tracked tuition from the top ten most popular schools in Tennessee and how much they had increased over the past ten years. These numbers include the total cost of attendance—tuition, books and supplies, and living costs. Take a gander. Or don’t. It isn’t pretty for some. Others have remained relatively the same or decreased.
It should be noted—more generally, Tennessee runs in the middle of the pack as the 19th most expensive and the 34th most affordable state to attend college.
The University of Tennessee—Knoxville
2013 Tuition: $44,808
2022 Tuition: $51,078
Ten-Year Increase: 13.99%
University of Memphis
2013 Tuition: $38,247
2022 Tuition: $32,360
Ten-Year Increase: -15.39%
Middle Tennessee State University
2013 Tuition: $36,274
2022 Tuition: $43,586
Ten-Year Increase: 20.16%
2013 Tuition: $61,112
2022 Tuition: $84,412
Ten-Year Increase: 38.13%
East Tennessee State University
2013 Tuition: $38,919
2022 Tuition: $30,807
Ten-Year Increase: -20.84%
The University of Tennessee—Chattanooga
2013 Tuition: $35,736
2022 Tuition: $40,916
Ten-Year Increase: 14.50%
Tennessee Technological University
2013 Tuition: $37,963
2022 Tuition: $37,016
Ten-Year Increase: -2.49%
Austin Peay State University
2013 Tuition: $36,009
2022 Tuition: $36,409
Ten-Year Increase: 1.11%
2013 Tuition: $43,030
2022 Tuition: $60,480
Ten-Year Increase: 40.55%
Tennessee State University
2013 Tuition: $30,413
2022 Tuition: $37,248
Ten-Year Increase: 22.47%