UT President Joe DiPietro traveled to Nashville yesterday to present at the House Finance and Senate Education budget hearings for the University of Tennessee System.
The President’s message was clear: The University of Tennessee continues to fulfill its mission of education, research, and outreach. By educating, discovering, and connecting to the people of Tennessee, the UT System impacts the lives of thousands of Tennesseans every day. The continued and generous support from all levels of government allows the UT System to improve and grow.
During his opening remarks, the President recognized and thanked the Governor for fully funding the outcomes-based funding formula and reiterated UT’s commitment to finding efficiencies and limiting tuition increases to 5-6% this year.
He also highlighted the need for non-formula unit funding, seeking to bring several UT units (AgResearch, Extension, the Institute for Public Service and the UT Space Institute) up to the 3.5% funding increase level included in the Governor’s budget proposal. These units have no, or very limited, tuition mechanisms and provide needed and in-demand outreach services to the people of Tennessee.
Regarding education, the President emphasized affordability, access, and quality, noting that the Princeton Review recently recognized UT Martin and UT Knoxville as “Best Buy” institutions. They were the only two public institutions in Tennessee recognized with this distinction.
As statewide efforts continue to attract, retain, and graduate more Tennesseans from college, the President highlighted rising enrollments, graduation rates, and degrees awarded within the UT System. His testimony pointed out that the UT System holds the highest graduation rates in the state among public universities, with UTK (72%) having the highest rate, UTM (57%) having the second highest rate, and UTC (52%) having the fourth highest rate.
Regarding research, the President thanked the Governor for including funding support for UT’s supercomputer in his proposed budget. Illustrating how UT’s research directly impacts Tennessee’s economy, President DiPietro brought attention to the nine Tennessee companies that were established last year alone based on UT research—and the nine more that will likely be created this year.
The budget testimony was well received in both the House and Senate. House Finance moved the budget out of committee, but due to time constraints the Senate Education Committee delayed for two weeks.
It was clear that a growing interest exists among legislators to more adequately fund higher education in Tennessee—in terms of both operational dollars and capital maintenance and outlay.