- Brad Martin
Although about 20 University of Memphis employees are being laid off due to a $20 million budget gap, the institution has proposed to cut nearly $10,000 off the price of tuition for out-of-state students living in a 250-mile radius of Memphis.
The U of M recently issued a proposal to the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) requesting reduced fees for all out-of-state students. Those within a 250-mile radius of the city, such as residents of Little Rock, St. Louis, Birmingham, and Jackson, Mississippi, would benefit the most.
Those students would pay $12,403 instead of the current annual tuition rate of $21,768. All other out-of-state students outside of the 250-mile radius would have the opportunity to save thousands in tuition as well.
Brad Martin, U of M interim president, said the administration has been discussing the proposal since he assumed leadership at the university in 2013.
"It reflects our belief that we have a lot to offer to prospective students beyond our borders and that they can make a wonderful contribution to the university and the community," Martin said. "We want to expand our reach. We want the University of Memphis to grow. We have the capacity to serve more students. This is another stake in the ground for us to demonstrate our commitment to growth."
According to U of M data, in fall 2013, around 600 undergraduate students and nearly 350 graduate students were classified as out-of-state students.
The proposals would apply to continuing students and students who are already admitted to the university or who meet incoming admissions requirements. If the proposals are approved at the TBR board meeting in June, the reductions would take effect this fall.
U of M freshman Jerrica James hails from Little Rock. Thanks to scholarships, she's able to attend the university. If the proposal is passed, she said it would benefit many of her peers who also aspire to attend the U of M but can't afford the tuition.
"I have friends from my high school who I was trying to help get here, but unfortunately, because of the cost of out-of-state [tuition], they will not be able to attend," said James, a journalism major. "I think that the initiative is a great idea, because I feel like we're missing out on a lot of students who live really close, but they have to pay out-of-state tuition and it hinders them from coming to the university."
A $20 million gap in the U of M's operating budget led to the dismissal of around 20 administrative employees. But the university's student population has decreased by 1,300 students since 2011, according to U of M data. And the U of M has requested for tuition to not be increased for the 2014-15 school year.
"There are a lot of issues associated with getting the organizational structure correct at the University of Memphis, and in the course of doing that, we did have some reductions of positions," Martin said. "These will be paying students who otherwise would not come to the University of Memphis. It's a very good financial proposition."
The reduced fee proposals would eliminate $1.7 million of the tuition funding the university receives from out-of-state students. The university anticipates counterbalancing the reduction through enrollment growth, organizational realignment, and cost savings.
More than 50 percent of out-of-state students attending the U of M remain in the region after graduation, according to the university.
"I think [the reduced fees] will help attract more qualified students who can succeed and who are likely to work and stay and contribute to this community upon their graduation," Martin said.