Tennessee Promise Passes House, Heads to Governor’s Desk

The Tennessee Promise Scholarship Act of 2014 was passed by the House of Representatives last night on an 87-8 vote.  Members voting no included Representatives Joe Carr (R-Lascassas), Glen Casada (R-Franklin), Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin), Andy Holt (R-Dresden), Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma), Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), Billy Spivey (R-Lewisburg), and Rick Womick (R-Rockvale).

The legislation passed in the Senate earlier this week and now heads to the Governor’s desk, his signature being the final step in the lawmaking process.

The Tennessee Promise is a key component of Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 Initiative, the goal of which is raising higher education attainment from the current level of 32 percent to 55 percent by the year 2025.  The Promise Scholarship will serve as a “last dollar” award, to be applied after all other scholarships and financial aid towards the cost of tuition and fees for first-time Tennessee freshman students pursuing an associates degree or technical certificate.

But the legislation also includes provisions aimed specifically at helping students at four-year universities.

Currently, HOPE scholarship eligibility is capped at 120 attempted semester hours or when a degree is earned, whichever of the two comes first.  If a student attempts 120 hours, yet still hasn’t attained a degree, their eligibility for the HOPE ceases.

The Tennessee Promise legislation changes this.  The legislation allows students to remain eligible for the HOPE scholarship for 8 full semesters (taking as many hours as they wish within that period), or to use the standard 120 semester hour cap.  In short, students will receive more flexibility in retaining their scholarships.

As with most policy changes, the change in HOPE Scholarship terminating events comes with a price tag.  To cover the cost of making this change, The Tennessee Promise legislation changes HOPE Scholarship award amounts.

At four-year universities, freshmen and sophomores eligible for the HOPE award will receive $3,500 annually.  HOPE eligible juniors and seniors will receive $4,500 annually.

Legislators Pass $32 Billion State Spending Plan: No Raises for State Employees, No Complete College Tennessee Outcomes Funding

The House and Senate passed the state’s FY14-15 budget this week as legislators rapidly approach the end of session.

According to an article by Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Tom Humphrey, House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) said that this budget marks the “first time in institutional memory” that the General Assembly has approved a state budget without adopting any amendments proposed by individual legislators.

Although they ultimately failed, legislators filed several amendments as attempts to provide some type of state employee raise as well as full funding for the Complete College Tennessee outcomes-based formula.

These amendments included ones filed by Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Rep. Mike Harrison (R-Rogersville), which appropriated over $20 million the Complete College funding formula if tax revenues rebounded.  These measures were ultimately withdrawn.

Simply put:  The budget, which now heads to the Governor’s desk, includes no state dollars for higher education employee salary increases or the outcomes-based funding formula for the coming fiscal year.  These items, although included in the original budget proposal, were removed primarily due to lower than anticipated state revenues.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission recommended in November that $29.6 million be provided to fund the Complete College formula to meet the production and outcomes successes of the top performing Tennessee higher education institutions.

Governor Bill Haslam Launches Drive to 55 Initiative

Driveto55HorizontalLogoGovernor Bill Haslam today officially launched his ‘Drive to 55′ Initiative, the goal of which is to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with a post-secondary credential in order to meet Tennessee’s current and future workforce and economic needs. A broad assemblage of higher education and business stakeholders as well as members of the Tennessee General Assembly attended the launch.

“We want Tennesseans working in Tennessee jobs. We want Tennesseans to have an opportunity to get a good job and for those in the workplace to be able to advance and get an even better job,” Haslam said. “Currently in Tennessee, only 32 percent of us have a certificate or degree beyond high school, and studies show that by the year 2025 that number needs to be at least 55 percent for us to keep up with job demand. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

The governor outlined Tennessee’s current situation including:

· Nearly 70 percent of Tennessee students entering community college need remedial classes before they can take college level courses;

· More than 20,000 Tennessee high school graduates choose not to continue their education each year.

· There are approximately 940,000 adult Tennesseans that have some college credit but haven’t earned an associate or four-year degree.

· On the state’s current path, Tennessee is projected to reach 39 percent of citizens with a certificate or degree beyond high school by the year 2025. To reach 55 percent would be 494,000 more people.

· Tennessee is 20 percent below the national average in terms of degree attainment.

Among other speakers, the governor’s special advisor for Higher Education, Randy Boyd,  gave an update on the progress made to date on the ‘Drive to 55′ initiative including:

· $16.5 million in this year’s budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges, which institutions will begin receiving in the coming weeks.

· Launch of WGU Tennessee – an online, competency-based university aimed at the 940,000 adult Tennesseans that have some college credit but didn’t graduate with an associate or four-year degree.

· Newly created endowment of $47 million using operational reserve funds from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) to provide nearly $2 million each year to support scholarships for “last dollar” scholarship programs such as tnAchieves. These scholarships fill the gaps between students’ financial aid and the real costs of college including books, supplies, room and board.

· Launching the SAILS program, Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support, to give students who need extra support in math attention during their senior year in high school so they can avoid remediation when they enter college.

· Legislation sponsored by Majority Leaders Mark Norris and Gerald McCormick to create the Labor Education Alignment Program – or LEAP – to better coordinate key stakeholders on the state and local level to address workforce readiness.

· And new online learning innovations in Tennessee through partnerships with edX and Coursera.

Haslam appointed Boyd to the position in January, and he has consulted with a formal working group made up of the governor, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), and president of the University of Tennessee.

In his presentation, Boyd also placed emphasis on the importance of dual enrollment and other high school pre-college programs, a topic many legislators have been avid to address next session. Boyd stressed that a successful effort to reach 55 percent degree attainment will require the state to focus on more than two and four-year degrees.  An increasing emphasis will be placed on certificates at technology centers and community colleges.

The governor will be traveling the state in the coming weeks to further discuss Tennessee’s workforce development needs and the ‘Drive to 55′ Initiative.

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Governor Haslam Makes Appointments to Higher Education Boards

Press release from the Office of the Governor:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointments of eight new members and five re-appointments to Tennessee’s higher education boards as well as the selection of the chair of Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and vice chair of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR).

Robert Fisher, Pam Koban and Keith Wilson will serve on THEC.  Brad Lampley, Bonnie Lynch, Sharon Pryse and Thaddeus Wilson will serve as new members of the University of Tennessee (UT) Board of Trustees. Deanna Wallace will join TBR as a new member. Cato Johnson was elected chair of THEC, and Emily Reynolds was elected vice-chair of TBR.

“I want to thank the new and current members for serving and the important work they do,” Haslam said. “We’re focused on strengthening higher education in Tennessee, and I look forward to working with everyone involved in tackling the iron triangle of affordability, accessibility and quality.”

Fisher is a 2011 graduate of Rossview High School. He is a junior studying political science at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC), where he is a member of the Brock Scholars Program. He currently serves in the student government association as the student body president.  Fisher, a Clarksville native, will serve as the student representative on THEC.

Koban has served in faculty and administrative roles in both the UT and TBR systems. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee Knoxville and her master’s degree from the Fogelman School of Business at the University of Memphis. She serves on the board of trustees for Montgomery Bell Academy and has served as chairman of the board of directors for the Martha O’Bryan Community Center. She will represent the fifth congressional district on THEC.

Keith Wilson is the publisher of the Kingsport Times-News and president of the Northeast Tennessee Media Group, which includes the Kingsport Times-News, the Johnson City Press, the Herald and Tribune in Jonesborough, the Erwin Record and The Tomahawk in Mountain City.  He serves as a member of the Kingsport Higher Education Advisory Board.  In 2012, he was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce. He will represent the first congressional district on THEC.

Lampley serves as partner in charge of the Nashville office of Adams and Reese.  He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee Knoxville and earned his juris doctorate from the University of Tennessee College of Law.  He played offensive line at UT and was named to the Southeastern Conference’s All-Academic Team three times.  He recently completed a term as chair of the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. He will represent the seventh congressional district on the UT board.

Lynch is a 2016 M.D. candidate at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology from the University of Tennessee Knoxville.  She represents the College of Medicine Class of 2016 as secretary.  Lynch will represent students on the UT board.

Pryse is president and CEO of The Trust Company.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Tennessee Knoxville.  She currently serves on the board of directors of Leadership Knoxville and the YMCA of East Tennessee.  She is a past chair of United Way of Greater Knoxville. She will represent the second congressional district on the UT board.

Thaddeus Wilson is an associate professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center where he joined the faculty in 2000.  He is an associate professor of Radiology and Biomedical Engineering and Imaging and recently served as faculty senate president.  He earned his bachelor’s degree from Christian Brothers University and earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He will serve as a faculty trustee on the UT board.

Wallace is a business systems technology instructor at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Nashville and serves as an online instructor and course developer for the Regents Online Degree Program.  She earned a Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Education from Austin Peay State University. She will serve as a faculty representative on TBR.

Johnson is the senior vice president of corporate affairs at Methodist Healthcare.  He has served on THEC since 2008.  He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Memphis and is past president of the University of Memphis Alumni Association.  In January, the University of Memphis awarded him the Arthur S. Holmon Lifetime Achievement Award.

Reynolds is the senior vice president of government relations for the Tennessee Valley Authority.  She was originally appointed to TBR in 2010 and was re-appointed by Haslam in 2012 to serve a six year term.  She earned her bachelor’s degree from Stephens College.  She served as state director and chief of staff for U.S. Senator Bill Frist, and from 2003-2007 she served as the 31st secretary of the U.S. Senate.

Haslam also reappointed Danni Varlan and Ashley Humphrey to TBR, and Raja Jubran, Charles Anderson Jr. and George Cates to the UT board.

Haslam Names Interim Finance and Administration Commissioner

Martin-LarryUT alumnus Larry Martin has been named by Governor Bill Haslam as interim Finance and Administration Commissioner.  He will take the helm of the state’s Department of F&A on Monday, June 1.  Current Commissioner Mark Emkes retires May 31.

“Under Gov. Haslam, Tennessee has taken incredible steps toward making state government more responsive to its customers, the taxpayers, and I want to thank him for this new opportunity to serve the state,” Martin said.

Martin, 65, has served as an adviser to Haslam throughout his tenure as Mayor of Knoxville and as Governor.  He will serve in the interim role until a replacement has been selected.

Prior to pursuing public service, Martin was an executive of First Horizon/First Tennessee Bank.  He joined the company in 1969 and served in various capacities.  He moved to Knoxville in 1987 when he was named president of First Tennessee Bank Knoxville.  When he retired, he was serving as chief operating officer for First Tennessee Financial Services with responsibility for all Tennessee Regional Bank Markets; Merchant Services Processing; Hickory Venture Capital; and the Commercial, Corporate, and Middle Market Divisions of the bank.

A native of Jackson, Tenn., Martin received his bachelor of science from the University of Tennessee’s College of Business. Throughout the years, he has been involved in many community activities, including the University of Tennessee Foundation.

“I am grateful that Larry has agreed to step into this position and serve Tennessee taxpayers in this capacity,” Haslam said. “He has been critically important in helping us establish the systems and organizational structure to begin recruiting, attracting and retaining the best and brightest to serve in state government, and I look forward to continuing to work with him as interim commissioner of F&A.”

The search for a permanent replacement is ongoing.