UT President Joe DiPietro presented UT’s top funding priorities today to Governor Haslam for consideration in his proposed spending plan for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The Governor’s budget hearings serve as a launch point for the State’s budgeting process— all state departments, agencies, and entities present their upcoming budget priorities—requests that the Governor ultimately weighs as he compiles his annual spending plan. That plan is traditionally presented to the legislature in late January or early February, around the time of the State of the State Address.
In today’s hearing, President DiPietro focused on the significant recent achievements of the UT System. “I’m pleased to report that UT—across the board and across the state—has had the best year it’s had since I’ve been here,” he stated, pointing to examples such as the single-largest grant ever received in UT history ($70 million), awarded this year for UT’s Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, the largest award of its type ever given by the federal government; and all key metrics for research productivity, outreach and engagement, fundraising, graduation and retention rates are on upward trajectories.
DiPietro also noted the significant achievements of UT’s Budget Advisory Group, created to help solve a severe projected funding gap at UT of over $377 million in the next decade. The gap, he reported at the hearing, has been slashed to $247.5 million due to increased state support and the work of UT campuses and institutes to become more efficient, effective, and entrepreneurial without requiring a large tuition increase. In fact, tuition increases for the UT System this year were held to their lowest levels in more than 30 years (3 percent).
The President presented the following funding priorities at the hearing:
Increased Funding to Bring More Top Scientists to UT
Since UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory established the Governor’s Chairs program 10 years ago, it has been a game-changer for the University and the state. UT Knoxville has become one of the fast-growing research institutions in the country, and these 16 world-class scientists have helped bring almost $500 million in new research awards to the University. UT has asked that funding to bring more of these top-caliber researchers to Tennessee be doubled over the next five years.
Include UT Employees in Compensation Plan for State Employees
Excellence is as important to reward as it is to achieve, and President DiPietro made the case for compensation that recognizes UT employee efforts. He also asked that whatever compensation plan the state has for all other employees, higher education and UT be appropriated dollars in the same manner. Fully funding employee compensation for higher education helps keep tuition low and rewards our employees’ hard work.
Recurring Funding for Software to Centralize UT Data
Data-driven decisions are the key to enhancing efficiency. UT is seeking $500,000 annually to purchase software that will enhance our ability to compile, compare and examine vast amounts data from all of our campuses and institutes.
One-Time Funding for New Big Data Graduate Program
Nationally, there is an urgent need to prepare experts in use of big data to make organizations smarter and more efficient. Responding to this need presents a long-term entrepreneurial opportunity for the University. UT seeks a one-time, $6 million investment from the state to develop a program to develop leaders who can use data to maximize organizational performance.
Full Funding of the Performance-Based Higher Education Funding Formula
The funding formula recommends UT schools receive $12.3 million in new funding, and President DiPietro has asked the Governor to propose fully funding this amount. UT continues to work hard to ensure its campuses are the top performers in the state in order for the campuses to be awarded this funding. Full funding ensures campuses are rewarded for their hard work in improving student success and graduation rates.
Funding for Needed New Buildings on UT Campuses
Effectively educating students requires classrooms that facilitate learning. Renovating an academic classroom building at UT Chattanooga is UT’s number one building priority this year. However, UT’s request also includes a new dental facility at the UT Health Science Center and a new engineering services facility at UT Knoxville. A new science building at UT Martin is also needed to better enable STEM education. The current facility, built in the 1960’s, is in poor condition and the new facility would house all of the campus’ hard sciences. President DiPietro noted that for colleges in rural settings like UT Martin, raising the required funds from private sources to support a new building like this is virtually impossible, thus requesting the Governor’s help “turning this need into a reality” for UT Martin.
A 4.7 Percent Overall Funding Increase for UT Institutions That Provide Services to All Tennesseans
The funding would provide increases to the Institute of Agriculture (UTIA), which has a presence in all 95 counties, Institute for Public Service (IPS) and Health Science Center (UTHSC). These institutions provide services that benefit Tennesseans in every community. This year alone, UT’s Institute for Public Service helped Tennessee companies generate $600 million toward the state’s economy. Funding for these institutions has significant return-on-investment for the state, and unlike traditional campuses, they do not have significant mechanisms to offset prior declines in state funding on their own.
Funding for the UT Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) to Advance Rural Tennessee’s Economy Through the Governor’s Rural Challenge
UT is requesting $3.85 million in new funding for additional faculty and staff to help increase Tennessee’s rural net worth, enhance market development activities, and stimulate rural enterprise innovation. UTIA can further promote rural economies by broadening access to expertise in livestock production and health, developing new crops that are more resistant to pests and disease and use water more efficiently, and offering new expertise to agribusiness in marketing and financial and business management. Ramping up these services will take additional investment by the state.
After the Governor releases his proposed budget in early 2016, the proposal will then be considered by the legislature. An amended budget is typically passed by late April.
For updates on the budget and other legislative issues impacting UT, visit this blog regularly and follow @UTAdvocator on Twitter. We will continue to keep advocates informed of the budget process as it unfolds in 2016.Tags: Funding Requests, Governor's Budget Hearing, Higher Education, UT, UT System