Haslam to Deliver State of the State Tonight

Tonight, Governor Bill Haslam will address a joint session of the House and Senate in his annual State of the State address to kick off the first regular session of the 109th General Assembly.

The yearly address is an important part of the legislative process, formalizing Gov. Haslam’s policy priorities and setting the tone for the next few months of legislative debate and action. The governor has already indicated that, following the failure of Insure Tennessee, his main objective is to tackle issues surrounding the state’s educational system and K-12 educational standards.

The State of the State typically marks the official release of the Governor’s budget, which certainly will impact the University of Tennessee.

You can follow the address and session online at www.tn.gov/stateofthestate.  The joint session is to convene at 5:45 p.m. CST with Governor Haslam’s address to follow at 6 p.m CST.

We’ll post an update focusing on higher education items included in the State of the State that impact the University of Tennessee as soon as possible.

Governor Haslam Delivering the 2014 State of the State Address

Governor Haslam Delivering the 2014 State of the State Address

UT President Joe DiPietro Joins Panel on Higher Ed Workforce Preparedness

Reliable funding that enables excellence while holding institutions accountable is the single-greatest challenge facing public higher education, University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro told a gathering of Nashville business leaders on Wednesday.

“We really started to address this challenge when our board met in June, and I suggested higher education’s current business model is unsustainable,” DiPietro said. “Since I took office in 2011, I’ve gotten in front of our legislature every year, and frequently, to tell them it’s a problem.

“It’s what keeps me up at night, so we’re rolling up our sleeves to seek a long-term solution that doesn’t require 4 to 6 to 8 percent tuition increases. We have to do everything we possibly can to ensure effectiveness, efficiency and entrepreneurial approaches to filling funding gaps, all while maintaining our excellence.”

DiPietro’s comments came during the Nashville Business Journal’s 2014 annual “Nashville Ahead” program. He joined three other higher education leaders for a panel program titled, “A Discussion on Higher Education and Workforce Readiness.”

More than 100 leaders in business, industry and government attended, and when asked what business could do to most help higher education, DiPietro had a two-part answer.

“First, be truth tellers. If we’re not producing the product you need, pick up the phone and let us know. We seek to produce the best-prepared graduates that we can, and we need your input to ensure that,” he said.

“Second, we have to commit to high standards for education in Tennessee. To say to Tennesseans, ‘We need to have standards’ is nothing new. Having and adhering to standards is critical to the important completion agenda behind Gov. Haslam’s ‘Drive to 55’ effort. It’s critical that students arrive at college well-prepared, and that’s what standards make happen. I encourage your support for high public education standards at all levels in Tennessee.”

UT campuses already actively partner with business to meet needs throughout Tennessee and beyond, according to DiPietro.

“Our campuses have consciously worked with employers to respond to the needs of the market,” he said. “Industry told us we need more engineers in Tennessee, so our UT Knoxville campus, for example, partnered with Eastman to grow STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education while also enhancing it, and the result is we’re producing more engineers whose education has them very well-prepared.

“The needs of the population and of healthcare providers we partner with to serve the population called for expanding our efforts to train doctors, nurses, dentists and pharmacists. As a result of that, our UT Health Science Center is working with Saint Thomas Health here in Nashville to greatly expand our presence in Middle Tennessee. At the same time, in West Tennessee, UT Martin is expanding capacity in rural communities like Parsons to produce more nurses.

“In Chattanooga, we have numerous ventures with Volkswagen that serve both that manufacturer and students at our UT Chattanooga campus very well, and Volkswagen is just one of many business partners UT Chattanooga is working with.”

DiPietro was joined by Western Governors University Tennessee Chancellor Kimberly Estep, Middle Tennessee State University President Sidney McPhee and Volunteer State Community College President Jerry Faulkner to discuss current trends in higher education to prepare students to be better-prepared employees.

DiPietro routinely meets with business, industry and economic development leaders through formal and informal events. Alumni and industry councils also help campus leaders keep in touch with the business world.

“The University of Tennessee leads our state in helping students complete their degrees, and we are becoming more entrepreneurial in the ways we partner and work with business and industry to provide a well-trained workforce that ultimately benefits all of Tennessee,” DiPietro said after the program.

One UT Advocate Speaks Out

The column below was written by Bo Roberts and published in The Tennessean on June 2.  Roberts is a Nashville-based marketing consultant who has worked with and consulted for higher education institutions in Tennessee.  He is a Co-Chair of the UTAA Alumni Legislative Council and member of the UT Advocacy Network.

To most of us, $19 million is a whole lot of money; it’s certainly much more than the oft-referenced cost of a cup of coffee.

But, that’s the specific amount sliced from Tennessee’s allocation to public higher education institutions for the fiscal year beginning on July 1. While the governor was forced to reduce his entire budget after a lackluster year in tax revenue collections, $19 million represented a huge number, both literally and psychologically, to college and university administrators throughout the state. They had “earned” that money by excelling at a new system designed to reward productivity. Student enrollment numbers were no longer the ultimate benchmark.

So, just how much is $19 million in the grand budgetary scheme of things? It’s a mere hundredth of 1 percent of the overall $12.7 billion state budget. To put that in perspective, a family with a gross annual income of $100,000 would have to adjust its budget by $150. At approximately one cup of coffee a week, though, most wouldn’t call that a threat to making their mortgage payment.

We all understand that budget choices are agonizing. We’ve been there. Yet it comes down to plain priorities: public higher education has been suffering from a lack of preferential treatment for decades.

I say this while acknowledging that Gov. Bill Haslam has put more emphasis and given more attention to our colleges and universities than any other governor in recent memory. In fact, the budget reduction cited here was made to one of this administration’s strongest new initiatives: an effort to alter the culture of higher education by focusing on results (graduates) rather than enrollment totals. Haslam’s bold approach, coupled with his “Drive for 55” to increase the number of college graduates in the Volunteer State, and his “Tennessee Promise” to make tuition free to community colleges and colleges of applied technology, is indicative of the allegiance this administration has devoted to this particular issue.

However, don’t miss the fact that the governor is battling a funding trend that began many administrations ago. Here’s a tale-telling snapshot of recent history: 20 years ago, tuition covered about one-third of the revenues for public higher education; 10 years later, tuition costs had doubled and the amount students paid was up to 50 percent of the revenues. Today, tuition has quadrupled and covers nearly two-thirds of revenues. As any tuition-paying parent in Tennessee would agree, it’s far more than a casual cup of coffee.

How did this happen? Choices. When crunch time came, it seemed fairly painless for administrations and legislators to resist covering increasing education costs because they fully understood that the institutions could make those costs up by simply increasing tuition. The misery was passed along, so to speak, alleviating any potential hue and cry from the voters about “raising taxes.”

Speaking of suffering, Gov. Haslam was recently quoted as saying “nothing pained him more” than the cuts he had to make to raises for teachers, state employees and to higher education. We can commiserate with him because it has truly been a time of tough decisions.

But, back to choices. My hope is that when the choices are made during the next legislative session, a “cup of coffee” for higher education will take precedence over other, seemingly more important priorities. It should make the final cut. We’ll take the coffee plain, please, no cappuccinos or frills needed.

Senators File Budget Amendments

The Senate Budget Subcommittee met last week to hear budget amendments filed by members.  The amendments, 154 in all, were voted on by committee members this week.

Below are the Senate amendments that would have impacted the University of Tennessee System.  None of the amendments passed, dying either from the lack of a motion or the sponsor’s decision to withdraw.

Senate Amendment

Senate Sponsor




11 Norris Funds the higher education funding formula from any excess revenue collections $20,310,200  
19 Burks Funds the higher education funding formula at THEC recommendation $29,600,000
28 Gresham Purchase of Lone Oaks Farm/TN 4-H Camp $50,000
72 Summerville Eliminate funding for UT Access and Diversity Initiative -$5,688,900
73 Summerville Reduce funding for UT University-Wide Administration -$1,000,000
119 Finney Supporting institutional missions at all academic formula units (THEC recommendation) $29,600,000

Governor’s Budget Amendment Released: Salary Raises, Higher Ed Increase Foregone

Governor Bill Haslam released his budget amendment Tuesday morning, cutting $160 million from his FY14-15 budget proposal and an additional $150 million in the current fiscal year.

The cuts, necessitated by an ongoing decline in state revenue collections, eliminate proposed new funding for higher education and pay raises for state employees.  State employees were originally slated to receive a 1 percent salary increase this year.

No doubt troubling for higher education leaders, the amendment represents the first time since the adoption of the Complete College Tennessee Act that no new dollars will be allocated to reward outcomes achieved by Tennessee’s public colleges and universities.  The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) had recommended a minimum of $29.6 million in funding towards that end.

The Governor’s original budget proposed that $13 million, representing the state’s portion of a 1 percent salary increase for higher education employees, be run through the Complete College outcomes-based funding formula in lieu of THEC’s funding recommendation.

Under the proposed amendment, higher education will receive no new dollars towards employee salary increases or the outcomes-funding formula for the coming fiscal year.