UT Completes House Budget Hearings; Senate Hearing Forthcoming

This week, University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro presented the proposed UT budget for FY15-16 to the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee and the House Education Administration and Planning Committee. DiPietro praised the budget proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam, saying that it is “one of the better budgets” that he has seen in his tenure with UT. Despite the strong budget proposal, however, DiPietro noted that it does not solve a serious business model problem facing the UT System.

DiPietro stressed the seriousness of the “broken” higher education business model to Committee members, reporting that projections place UT with a $377 million budget gap over the next decade. He highlighted the problems associated with continuing to plug this growing budget gap through increasing student tuition—a burden on Tennessee students and families he referred to as “unsustainable.”

DiPietro reiterated to both Committees that UT is dedicated to finding solutions to address business model concerns. In light of limited additional state revenues, campuses will be asked to implement measures to increase effectiveness, find efficiencies, and become more entrepreneurial while maintaining excellence.

While DiPietro emphasized to legislators that there would be not be “big changes overnight,” he did outline some example pathways to help solve the projected budget gap, including the option for campuses to increase enrollment of out-of-state students to, at most, 25 percent. House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee Chairman Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) recognized the difficult funding situation facing UT, calling the budget gap and DiPietro’s corresponding action plan a “wake-up call” in regard to decisions the legislature will need to make surrounding higher education finance in the future.

Despite hard budget model decisions looming on the horizon, DiPietro was confident in stating that the UT System “will be better because of the journey.”

UT has its final budget hearing, with the Senate Education Committee, on March 4. We will keep you updated on any new information as it becomes available.

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