Was There Equitable Funding in Tennessee’s 4-Year Universities Pre-
Geier Settlement (1971-1983) vs. Post-Geier Settlement (1984-2003)
Dr. John Wm (Jay) Sanders & Dr. Toto Sutarso
Middle Tennessee State University
Funding for higher education has historically been a political and controversial
issue in the state of Tennessee. The higher education appropriation budgets for 1984-85
were used as a midpoint for this study because the state’s federal desegregation lawsuit
was settled with the Geier Stipulation of Agreement (1984). The “Geier” case did not
address specifically the funding differences between higher education institutions, rather,
it only alleged that funding was insufficient and was part of the unconstitutional dual
system of dejure segregation (Sanders v. Ellington, Compliant. 5077, 5-6 (1968).
On May 21, 1968, a law suit was filed against the state of Tennessee, claiming
that Tennessee A & I State University for Negroes (A & I) having been set up under
Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) §49-3206 “to train Negro students in agriculture,
home economics, trades, and industry, and to prepare teachers for the elementary and
high schools for Negroes in the state,” was a form of dejure racial discrimination and
deprived the plaintiffs of their constitutional rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth
Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (Sanders v. Ellington, Complaint.
5077, 5-6 (1968). United States District Judge Frank Gray, Jr. ruled in Sanders v.
Ellington, 288 F. Supp. 937 (1968) that the state was guilty of dejure segregation and
ordered that the dual system of higher education be dismantled. Court ordered plans for
dismantling the dual system were filed by the parties and were argued without much
success in the United States District Court for several years during several state
administrations. In January 1977, after a lengthy evidentiary hearing, Judge Gray
ordered that the University of Tennessee-Nashville (UT-N) and A & I, now Tennessee
State University (TSU), be merged into one institution and governed by the State Board
of Regents (SBR), now Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR). Also, the Monitoring
Committee was ordered to continue to oversee the desegregation of the white institutions
(Geier v. Blanton, Judgment. 92, 422 (1977).
The State of Tennessee had three higher education boards: Tennessee Higher
Education Commission (THEC), University of Tennessee Board of Trust (UTBT) which
governed all of the UT schools, TBR which governed all non- UTBT schools. THEC,
created by legislation in 1967, was the oversight board for both UTBT and TBR. One of
THEC’s responsibilities was to “develop policies and formulae for the equitable
distribution of public funds” for higher education statewide (TCA §49-7-202(2).
2003’s $ - appropriations adjusted, using CPI, for inflation into 2003 dollars
FTE – Headcount of students converted to the equivalent in full-time students
Post-Geier Settlement (Period 2) - covers the school- years 1984-2002
Pre-Geier Settlement (Period 1) - covers the school-years 1971-1983
School-years - are defined as “1971” = 1971-72, “1983” =1983-84, “1984” = 1984-85,
and “2002” = 2002-03.
APSU - Austin Peay State University -TBR
ETSU - East Tennessee State University -TBR
MTSU - Middle Tennessee State University -TBR
TSU - Tennessee State University (formerly Tennessee A & I) -TBR
TTU - Tennessee Technological University -TBR
UTK - University of Tennessee Knoxville - UTBT
UM - University of Memphis (formerly Memphis State University) -TBR
UTC - University of Tennessee Chattanooga - UTBT
UTM – University of Tennessee Martin - UTBT
Statement of the Problem
Tennessee’s higher education appropriations have declined over the past several
years and are expected to continue declining in the foreseeable future. The changing of
THEC’s funding formulas and the political maneuvering by UT and others altered the
funding per student for all of the 4-year institutions. United States District Court Judge
Frank Gray, Jr. when rendering his judgment to merge UTN and TSU in the Geier v.
Blanton (1977) case made the following statement about UT’s politics:
The hope for future progress is further dimmed by the historical inability of the
defendants to agree among themselves ... and by the reluctance of the political
powerful University of Tennessee to take significant steps to eradicate dualism in
Nashville.... the power of the University of Tennessee System is demonstrated at
the outset by counsel for the defendants. From the beginning, the University of
Tennessee and its Board of Trustees have retained their own counsel. In the
initial stages of the action, UT was represented by in-house counsel; in the later
stages, private counsel was retained by the system. The remaining defendants,
including the Board of Regents ... have been represented by the Attorney General
for the State of Tennessee (427 F.Supp. 656).
Were the interests of the students from the other 5 TBR universities served by the
Attorney General’s representation? Did he represent only the state’s interest, or did he
represent the individual universities interest? Other than losing UTN to the merger with
TSU, the Geier Settlement has had little effect on UT. However, stipulations by the
Attorney General in the 1984 Settlement had many negative effects on the other 2 middle
setting up of the “consortium between Middle Tennessee State University and
Tennessee State University, and,
the prohibition of “no new doctoral programs for Middle Tennessee State
University and Austin Peay State University for five years, and Tennessee State
University having “first priority” for all new graduate programs Stipulation of
Agreement. Geier v. Alexander (1984).
These conditions were not terminated at the end of 5 years and stayed in effect until just
recently. Even though MTSU and APSU were the fastest growing universities in the
state they were restricted by TSU’s having “first priority” from offering any new
graduate or doctoral programs during those years. During its rapid growth years the TSU-
MTSU consortium limited MTSU’s flexibility at the time when it was most needed.
Funding Trends in Period 2
An example of how a few universities were able to get a bigger share of funding
per student happened with the 1996-97 Higher Education Budget is shown in Table 1.
After THEC sent its proposed budget to Governor Sundquist, he determined that the
overall budget (2 and 4 year schools) would only be funded at 95.1% of THEC’s
recommendation. However, instead of reducing each school to 95.1% the Governor
made the following changes: TTU was to receive 100.7%, UTK was 97.9%, ETSU was
96.0%, and UM was 96.0%. On the lower end TSU was to receive 90.6%, MTSU was
91.5%, APAU was 92.6%, UTC was 93.5%, and UTN was 95.1%.
After the funding for the 95.1% budget was approved by the legistlature, then
THEC reallocated to where the universities received the following: TTU - 98.8%, UTK -
96.9%, ETSU - 95.7%, UM - 95.7%, UTM – 95.1%, UTC – 94%, APSU – 93.5%,
MTSU – 92.7%, and TSU 92.1%. This trend of reduced funding for the 3 middle
Tennessee universities and increasing UT, UM and TTU was prevalent during Period 2
(Post-Geier Settlement) as shown in Tables 3, 4, and 5 of this study.
THEC and the Governor’s Proposed Funding Amounts for the 9 Four-Year
Universities for the Fiscal Year 1996-97
University THEC’s Governor’s % of Full THEC’s Difference % of Full
Proposal Proposal Funding Reallocation Between Funding
100% (Governor) THEC--Gov (THEC)
TTU 37,929,600 38,202,200 100.7% 37,492,933 -709,267 98.8%
UTK 150,840,600 147,591,900 97.8% 146,215,367 -1,376,533 96.9%
ETSU 46,673,900 44,815,500 96.0% 44,673,967 -141,533 95.7%
UM 93,896,000 90,136,400 96.0% 89,858,667 -277,733 95.7%
UTM 26,000,600 24,721,200 95.1% 24,723,733 2,533 95.1%
UTC 34,454,300 32,208,600 93.5% 32,395,400 186,800 94.0%
APSU 27,123,900 25,124,800 92.6% 25,348,933 224,133 93.5%
MTSU 67,262,000 61,539,800 91.5% 62,350,533 810,733 92.7%
TSU 34,366,600 31,125,000 90.6% 31,645,000 520,000 92.1%
Total 4-yr 518,547,500 495,465,400 95.5% 494,704,533 95.4%
Total-all 686,921,200 653,320,600 95.1% 653,321,000 95.1%
Source: Tennessee Higher Education Commission cited in The Sidelines (Blevins, M.
Since 1984 the fast growing schools like MTSU (91%) APSU (46%) and TSU
(33%) had very low funding increases while UTK (3%) and UM (-1%) had little or no
growth and dramatic increases in funding per FTE. See Table 2 for increases in
enrollment 1984 through 2003 and Table 3 for increases in funding per FTE.
Increases in enrollment (FTE) 1984 through 2003
University 1984 2003 Rank Percentage Increase
Middle Tennessee 9,794 18,735 1 91%
Austin Peay 4,306 6,278 2 46%
Tennessee State 5,796 7,716 3 33%
UT Chattanooga 5,764 7,138 4 24%
East Tennessee 7,963 9,707 5 22%
UT Martin 4,857 5,265 6 8%
Tennessee Tech 7,068 7,509 7 6%
UT Knoxville 21,625 22,236 8 3%
Memphis State 15,860 15,720 9 -1%
Total FTE 83,033 100,304
Source: Tennessee Higher Education Commission funding data and ranking by the
1. Had equitable funding been provided for all the four-year universities from 1971-
72 through 2002-03 (Periods 1 and 2)?
2. Did some institutions receive significantly higher average appropriations per FTE
(2003’$) in the Post-Geier Settlement years (1984-85 through 2002-03) than they
did in the Pre-Geier Settlement years (1971-72 through 1983-84)?
The study explored the higher education appropriations for the state’s 9 four-year
institutions (3 UT and 6 TBR) for the years 1971 through 2002. The study, also,
compared the average funding (FTE), for 2 periods; the 13 years prior to the Geier
Settlement (Period 1) vs. the 19 years after the settlement (Period 2). Tennessee Higher
Education Commission (THEC) calculations of FTE’s were not available prior to the
1971-72 school year; therefore Period 1 could not include the FTE for Pre-Geier years of
1968 through 1970. The funding Pre-FTE was examined to see if there appeared to be
any violations of THEC’s responsibilities to “develop policies and formulae for the
equitable distribution of public funds” for higher education statewide (TCA §49-7-
Website for Data Files
Due to limited space for publication, a “Tennessee Higher Education Funding
1971-2003” website http://mtsu32.mtsu.edu:11008/he.htm has been created which
contains links to the original THEC Funding Excel files, files containing calculations for
funding per FTE, adjustments for inflation, and related data.
The funding (appropriations) data presented in the study was obtained from
Tennessee Higher Education Commission in early 2004. The analysis of the data and,
where appropriate, adjustments for inflation to 2003 $’s for the years 1971 to 2002 was
done by the authors. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustments was obtained from
U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, D.C. website for CPI
1913 to 2004 ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/cpi/cpiai.txt.
Period 1--Average Funding $per FTE for Pre-Geier Settlement
As shown in Table 3, during the years 1971 through 1983 (Period 1), the
University of Tennessee (UTK), the University of Memphis (UM), formerly Memphis
State University, and Tennessee State University (TSU) received more funding per
student (full-time equivalent – FTE) than the other Tennessee 4-year institutions. This
time frame was after the 1968 filing of the original “Geier” (formerly Sanders) federal
suit and before the “Settlement” in 1984. Tennessee Higher Education Commission
(THEC) calculations of FTE’s were not available prior to the 1971-72 school year. The
schools with above average funding during the period are TSU (15.7%), UTK (8.7%) and
UM (0.7%). Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) had the lowest funding at -
10.9% below average followed by UTM (-9.7%) and APSU (-9.1%).
Period 2 --Average Funding $per FTE Post-Geier Settlement
As shown in Table 3, using “% above/below average” for Period 2, UTK
(+24.9%), UM (+7.7%), and TTU (-2.8%) have continued to receive an increasingly
higher percentage funding per FTE than the other 4-year public universities over the
Period 1 years (Table 3). TSU dropped from their 1st place rank to 5th place at -8.3%.
ETSU (-10.1%), UTM (-12.1%), APSU (-16.9%) declined while MTSU, still in last
place, dropped from -10.9% to -20.4% of average funding dollars.
Average Funding $per FTE for Period 1 vs. Period 2
& Percentage Change Above or Below the Average (Mean) Funding
Period 1 Period 2 Percentage
School Average$ Rank % above/ School Average$ Rank % above/ change for
Funding below Mean Funding below Period 1 to
per FTE per FTE Mean Period 2
TSU 2,147 1 15.7% UTK 6,062 1 24.9% 186%
UTK 2,016 2 8.7% UM 5,228 2 7.7% 1000%
UM 1,868 3 0.7% TTU 4,719 3 -2.8% 49%
UTC 1,757 4 -5.3% UTC 4,541 4 -6.4% -21%
TTU 1,754 5 -5.5% TSU 4,453 5 -8.3% -153%
ETSU 1,748 6 -5.8% ETSU 4,363 6 -10.1% -74%
APSU 1,686 7 -9.1% UTM 4,266 7 -12.1% -25%
UTM 1,675 8 -9.7% APSU 4,035 8 -16.9% -86%
MTSU 1,652 9 -10.9% MTSU 3,863 9 -20.4% -87%
Average 1,855 Average 4,854
Source: Tennessee Higher Education Commission, averaging and ranking by the authors
Percentage changes from Period 1 to Period 2 showed UTK +186%, UM +1000%, and
TTU 49% while the 3 largest losers were TSU -153%, APSU -86%, and MTSU -87%.
TSU’s dropping from 1st to 5th place still left it at only 8.3% below the average spending
for Period 2 while APSU (-16.9%) and MTSU (-20.4%) were 8th and 9th respectively.
Periods 1 & 2 -Average Funding per FTE Adjusted for Inflation to 2003’s $
To be able to view the average funding over the span of 32 years (13 years Pre-
Geier Settlement and 19 years Post-Geier Settlement) as a common unit, the actual
funding amounts have been adjusted for inflation to 2003 $’s. This allowed a direct
comparison in real dollars to show whether the funding $ per FTE has increased or
decreased at each institution. As shown in Table 4, using “% above/below average” UTK
(25.6%), UM (10.4%), TSU (4.6%), and TTU (0.4%) were the school with above average
funding. Again, UTM (-7.7%), APSU (-11.5%) and MTSU (-14.5%) were the lowest.
Average University Funding $ per FTE 1971-72 through 2002/03
(Periods 1 & 2) Adjusted for Inflation to 2003 $’s
Average $ Funding per FTE
University 71/72 - 02-03 % Above/Below Average Rank
UTK 7,023 25.6% 1
UM 6,171 10.4% 2
TSU 5,850 4.6% 3
TTU 5,616 0.4% 4
UTC 5,472 -2.1% 5
ETSU 5,302 -5.2% 6
UTM 5,159 -7.7% 7
APSU 4,946 -11.5% 8
MTSU 4,782 -14.5% 9
Source: Tennessee Higher Education Commission and adjusted for inflation to 2003 $”s
Average Funding per FTE Period 1 vs. Period 2 Adjusted for Inflation to 2003 $’s
Since the appropriations have been adjusted for inflation (2003’s $), a direct
comparison was made between the average per dollar FTE funding Pre-Geier Settlement
years vs. Post Geier Settlement years (Table 5). UTK’s $7,705 (Post-Geier Settlement)
average funding per student followed by UM at $6,629 were the highest while APSU at
$5,141 and MTSU’s $4,930 were the lowest.
In real dollars, UTK with its increase of $2,577 ($5,129 to $7,705), UM with its
increase of $1,888 ($4,742 to $5,748), and TTU’s $1,535 ($4,477 to $6,629) had the
highest gains in funding per student. Again, APSU’s $853 ($4,171 to $4,930) and
MTSU’s $757 ($4,601 to $4,930) were the lowest other than TSU’s $313. TSU’s $313
increase was distorted because it had the highest funding per student in the Pre-Geier-
Settlement Years ($5,435 to $5,748). TSU dropped from the 1st place rank to 5th.
Increase in Real $ Appropriations per FTE for Period 1 vs. Period 2 Adjusted for
Inflation in 2003 $’s
University Period 1 Period 2
Average 71/72 - Average 84/85 - Mean $
83/84 Rank 02/03 Rank Difference
UTK 5,129 2 7,705 1 2,577
TSU 5,435 1 5,748 5 313
UM 4,742 3 6,629 2 1,888
TTU 4,477 5 6,012 3 1,535
UTC 4,481 4 5,777 4 1,297
UTM 4,280 7 5,451 6 1,171
ETSU 4,405 6 5,532 7 1,127
APSU 4,289 8 5,141 8 853
MTSU 4,173 9 4,930 9 757
Average 4,601 5,881 1,280
Source: Tennessee Higher Education Commission for data & analysis by authors. Shown
by Highest Average for Period 2, except for TSU
Data Analysis – Were The Differences Significant?
Since the FTE student count was not available from THEC during the years 1968
through 1970 – the years immediately after the Geier suit was filed in 1968, the funding
for the entire period 1968 through 1984 could not be studied. Rather, only the data from
the years 1971-2002 was compared using dollars of funding per FTE. Two schools
standout as having secured the highest increase in funding per student.
1. University of Tennessee Knoxville had the largest “average” increases in student
Increased from being 8.7% above average funding per student-FTE (Pre-Geier
Settlement) to 24.9% above average for the Post-Geier Settlement years.
Increased $2,577 in real dollars (2003’s $) per FTE from the Pre vs. Post-
Geier Settlement years.
2. University of Memphis had the 2nd largest “average” increase in student funding:
Increased from being 0.7% above average funding per student-FTE (Pre-Geier
Settlement) to 7.7% above average for the Post-Geier Settlement years.
Increased $1, 877 in real dollars (2003’s $) per FTE from the Pre vs. Post-
Geier Settlement years.
Two schools, also standout by having the lowest “average” increases and dropped
dramatically in funding in per student-FTE funding relative to the other schools.
1. Austin Peay was in 8th place:
Decreased from -9.1% below average funding per student-FTE (Pre-Geier
Settlement) to -16.9% below average for the Post-Geier Settlement years.
Increased $853 in real dollars (2003’s $) per FTE from the Pre vs. Post-Geier
2. Middle Tennessee State University was in 9th place:
Decreased from -10.9% below average funding per student-FTE (Pre-Geier
Settlement) to -16.9% below average for the Post-Geier Settlement years.
Increased $757 in real dollars (2003’s $) per FTE from the Pre vs. Post-Geier
To summarize, UTK and UM had very large increases in per student funding at
the expense of the other schools, particularly, APSU, MTSU and TSU. TSU had the
highest average funding during the Pre-Geier Settlement (Period 1). The question was
“were these averages for funding per FTE for Period 1 and Period 2 for TSU, UTK
and UM significantly different statistically than the other schools?”
Period 1 Comparison for Significant Difference of Funding Between Schools
Adjusted for Inflation in 2003 $’s
Due to unequal variances a Dunnett post hoc multiple comparisons analysis was
run using SPSS to determine if the differences in average funding for the 9 schools in the
Pre-Geier Settlement (Period 1) were significant.
The data reflected that TSU’s $5,435 average was significantly higher than all
schools except UTK. UTK’s $5,129 average funding per FTE (2003’s$) was
significantly higher than APSU, ETSU, MTSU, UTM, and TTU. The data also showed
that UM’s $4,742 average funding per FTE was significant higher than only MTSU, p
<.008. To view the files for these calculations go to the website
Period 2 Comparison for Significant Difference of Funding Between Schools
Adjusted for Inflation in 2003 $’s
Due to equal variances a Tukey post hoc multiple comparisons analysis was run
using SPSS to determine if the differences in average funding for the 9 schools in the
Post-Geier Settlement (Period 2) were significant.
The data showed that UTK’s $7,705 (rank 1) average funding per FTE (2003’s $)
was significantly higher the other 8 schools p <.000. UM’s $6,629 (rank 2) average
funding was significantly higher than all the other 7 schools p <.000, except TTU p
<.003. TTU’s $6,012 (rank 3) was significantly higher than APSU, MTSU, and UTM p
< .012. UTC’s $5,777 (rank 4) was significantly higher than MTSU p < .000 and APSU
p < .002. TSU’s $5,748 (rank 5) was significantly higher than MTSU p < .001. UTM’s
$5,451 (rank 6) was significantly higher than MTSU p < .027. ETSU’s $5,532 (rank 7)
was significantly lower than UM, UTK p < .000. APSU’s $5,141 (rank 8) was
significantly lower than UM, UTK, TTU p < .000 and UTC p < .039. MTSU’s $4,930
(rank 9) was significantly lower than UM, UTK, TTU p < .000, and TSU, UTC p < .001.
To view the files for these calculations go to the website
Answering the Research Questions:
Had equitable funding been provided for all the four-year universities from
1971-72 through 2002-03?
The funding for the 9 four-year schools appeared to be equitable in Period 1 The
average funding per FTE ranged from $1,652 (MTSU) to $2,147 TSU – a spread of $495
per FTE (Table 3). This was a 30% spread between the high and the low.
However, in Period 2, the average funding per FTE ranged from $3,863 (MTSU)
to $6,062 (UTK) - a spread of $2,199 per FTE (Table 4). This was a 56% spread between
the high and the low.
To answer the overall question, the answer appeared to be no because UTK, UM,
TTU funding per FTE increased dramatically while APSU, TSU and MTSU lost ground
by getting very low increases (Tables 3 and 4).
Have some institutions received significantly higher average appropriations per
FTE (2003’$) in the Period 2 years than they did in Period 1 years?
Yes, based on Table 5, adjusted for inflation (2003 $’s) the top 3 were: UTK
increased $2,577, UM increased $1,888, and TTU increased $1,535 per student (FTE).
The bottom 3 were: APSU increased $853, MTSU increased $757, and TSU increased by
$313. TSU’s low increase was misleading because they had the highest funding per FTE
in Period 1 at $5,435 and increased only to $5,748 (dropped from 1st to 5th rank).
The funding appeared to be equitable during Period 1 (pre-Geier 1984 Settlement)
where there was only a 30% spread between the high and the low. However, two
universities stood out as gaining a much higher percentage funding per student (FTE)
during Period 2 where the spread between the high and the low had increased to 56%:
UTK (Rank 1) and UM (Rank 2). Both UTK (3%) and UM (-1%) had relative stable
enrollment during Period 2 and did not suffer the problems of rapid growth that MTSU
(91%), APSU (46%), TSU (33%) and other schools had.
As shown in Table 3, two universities stood out as losing ground dramatically
during Period 2: MTSU (Rank 9) at $3,863 and APSU (Rank 8) at $4,035. TSU’s low
increase in Period 2 was misleading because it had the highest funding per FTE (Rank 1)
in Period 1 at $5,435 and increased to only $5,748 (rank 5). Percentage wise from Period
1 to Period 2, MTSU dropped from -10.9% to -20.4% below the mean while APSU
dropped from -9.7% to -16.9%. During the same period, UTK increased from 8.7% to
24.9% above the mean and UM increased from 0.7% to 7.7%. UTK and UM were the
only two schools to be above the mean in funding during Period 2.
MTSU, APSU and TSU are located in Middle Tennessee as opposed to UTK
being in East Tennessee and UM in West Tennessee. The data showed that all 3 Middle
Tennessee universities had lost ground since the Geier Settlement in 1984. There is still
remaining a question of whether the Governors and the legislatures had allowed THEC to
meet its responsibilities during Period 2 (1984-2002) to “develop policies and formulae
for the equitable distribution of public funds” for higher education statewide as required
in TCA §49-7-202(2)?
Blevins, Mark (1996). Feb. 12, p. 1. New Funding Formula Increases MTSU
Geier v. Blanton. 427 F.Supp. 644, 656, 657, 661 (1977).
Geier v. Blanton. Judgment. 92, 422 (1977).
Geier v. Dunn. 337 F.Supp. 573, 576, 580 (M.D.Tenn. 1972)
Sanders v. Ellington. 288 F.Supp. 8. (M.D. Tenn. 1968)
Sanders v. Ellington. Compliant. 5077, 5-6 (1968).
Stipulation of Agreement in the Geier v. Alexander (1984) Settlement
Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) §49-3206.
Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA §49-7-202(2).
Tennessee Higher Education Commission. Excel funding files. Nashville (2004)
U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. CPI 1913 to 2004.
ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/cpi/cpiai.txt. Washington (2004).
Website for paper documentation & original THEC Excel Files. Murfreesboro