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Summerville Pushing Tuition Freeze, Claims “Total Authority” Over Public Colleges

Dickson Republican state Se. Jim Summerville is looking to freeze tuition at state schools and force university administrators to figure out some spending priorities

State Sen. Jim Summerville is still fuzzy on the details but he says he is concerned about the precipitous rate of tuition increases at Tennessee’s public colleges and universities and thinks some sort of tuition freeze is likely in order.

The Dickson Republican broached the idea in a press release earlier this week, calling recent yearly increases in tuition prices “an outrage.” Speaking to TNReport Tuesday, Summerville expressed concern that “Parents and young folks are being priced out of the [higher education] market.”

“Over the last 10 years, it’s been a 60 percent increase in student tuition,” Summerville continued. “No state agency gets that kind of an increase over a decade. So we need to get control over their spending and find out why this tuition is getting out of hand.”

But beyond the basic idea of freezing prices, Summerville was short on details, including how long such a freeze would last. He told TNReport he was seeking input from other lawmakers and experts before settling on a final proposal.

One group he said he hadn’t reached out to was state higher education officials, but acknowledging the likelihood of pushback from administrators, Summerville smiled, saying “I expect to hear from them.”

Regardless of any such pushback, Summerville maintained that financial restraint at state schools was in order and that the General Assembly should be the one to hold institutions responsible.

“We have total authority over higher education, we can tell them—we can bring them before the Government Operations Committees or the Education Committees and say ‘voters are not happy with this skyrocketing of costs for the universities,’” Summerville told TNReport. “Do you really need all those vice presidents? Do you need those high-paid sports coaches? Show us a plan for reducing expenses,” he said.

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