UT President Joe DiPietro attended Governor Haslam’s budget hearing on Friday to advocate for the University’s top funding requests. The Governor’s budget hearings are an important first step in the State’s budget process, as the Governor weighs testimony from these hearings to develop a spending plan typically presented to the legislature in late January or early February.
The proposed spending plan is taken seriously by the legislature. Usually, very few major budget amendments are passed. In fact, the legislature did not pass a single substantive amendment modifying the Governor’s spending plan last year.
To put it frankly: Recent history suggests that if you want your major priorities to be funded, they typically need to be included in the Governor’s proposed spending plan. While any budget proposal will ultimately have to win the approval of the state legislature, the Governor’s budget hearings are a critical launch point to the budget process as entities compete for limited resources and other budgetary pressures begin to mount.
State funding for the University is essential. It represents about 25 percent of UT’s total budget, and despite the decreases in state funding that have occurred since the 2008 recession, UT has continued to increase its performance outcomes, graduating more students and producing more research.
But UT’s current business model, which relies heavily on tuition increases to offset dwindling state funding and fill a growing budget gap, is unsustainable as a long-term plan to continue providing affordable education to students and services to all Tennesseans.
The University is doing its part to address this budget gap through analysis that will result in recommendations to increase the efficiency, effectiveness and entrepreneurship of its campuses and institutes. Read more about the University’s funding and performance metrics here.
What are the major state funding priorities for the University of Tennessee in 2015?
Full allocation of funds based on campus performance.The state’s funding formula for higher education has recommended UT schools receive $9.7 million in new funding. President DiPietro is asking the governor to recommend that UT receive full allocation of this amount.
Why: UT has worked hard to make sure its institutions are the top performers in the state in order for the campuses to be awarded funding. Last year, the University was awarded 34 percent less than the formula recommended.
$7.3 million in additional funding for UT institutions that provide services to all Tennesseans. The funding would cover the Institute of Agriculture (UTIA), which has a presence in all 95 counties, Institute for Public Service (IPS) and Health Science Center (UTHSC).
Why: These institutions provide services that benefit all Tennesseans. In 2013, UTIA, IPS and UTHSC provided outreach to more than 6 million people. And unlike our campuses, these units do not have tuition mechanisms to increase funding.
Funding for the West Tennessee 4-H Center ($14.3 million) and Knoxville-Science Laboratory Facility ($83.7 million). The state’s higher education coordinating agency (THEC) has ranked both projects in the top six for funding by the state.
Why: Both projects are critical to moving the University forward. The West Tennessee 4-H Center would provide youth in west Tennessee with a camp experience in addition to serving as a conference center. The science laboratory will provide new facilities to educate students and produce groundbreaking research. The University has already raised matching funds for these projects.
Funding for building safety and maintenance.
The University is requesting $53 million for 11 projects that will improve building safety and upgrade some existing facilities.
Why: These projects will ensure that our campuses are providing safe learning and work environments for our faculty, staff and students.
Salary increases for UT employees. President DiPietro is requesting, at a minimum, a cost-of-living salary adjustment.
Why: The University has a $150 million market gap in terms of employee pay that it is trying to close over time. As state employees, the University is asking the state to help fund increases for UT employees, as their work is critical to the state’s future. UT employees did not receive a cost-of-living adjustment in last year’s budget.