On Monday, University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro gave the annual university budget presentation in front of the House Finance Committee. The presentation was the first of three that the President would give throughout the week, as he outlined the current position and goals of the university and addressed topics of interest to the committee members.
DiPietro began by proudly announcing that the university had the best year in the last 10 years with key metrics showing substantial increases across the board in degree production, six-year graduation rates, four-year graduation rates, retention, and freshman GPA and ACT scores.
“We’re finding creative, cost-effective ways to help students earn their degrees in less time, significantly reducing the total cost of their college education and getting them into good-paying jobs faster. And we’re doing all of this while spending less to produce a college graduate than we did 20 years ago. I couldn’t be more proud of these achievements.”
DiPietro continued by outlining the previous projected funding gap for the university of $377.4 million that was presented in last year’s budget hearing. Thanks to self-imposed budget boundaries, including tuition increases held to their lowest levels in more than 30 years, the funding gap is now projected to be cut to $247.5 million.
“This was done through our own hard work to achieve almost $50 million in reduced or reallocated expenditures by offering voluntary early retirement incentive programs at UT Chattanooga, the Institute of Agriculture, and UT Martin, several campuses eliminating or re-allocating vacant positions to fill other staffing needs, and eliminating administrative redundancies.”
DiPietro also highlighted the huge impact UT has on the state.
“The most recent annual estimate of our economic impact is about $4.8 billion across the System, and we are credited with creating or impacting 75,000 jobs across the State. Our Health Science Center, alone, is responsible for 26,700 jobs across Tennessee and a $2.7 billion impact on the state’s economy each year.”
Several Committee members posed questions regarding the UT Knoxville Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s structure and funding totals.
Of the Representatives present, Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), was outspoken on the issue, expressing surprise in the need for the office and questioning the occurrence of inappropriate and insensitive behavior on campuses, stating, “Are the students entering college these days particularly rude to other people?”
DiPietro responded, “From time to time there is hate speech or bias towards people on campus because of their background, whether they be diverse, or majority students. It happens in college environments and we try to educate people. We’ve had incidences on campus that include racial slurs or worse against our student body. That is inappropriate behavior and we have to educate students that this is not the right way to conduct yourselves at the University of Tennessee.”
Later in the week during the Senate Education Committee’s UT Budget hearing, the topic arose again and members ultimately voted to recommend stripping funds from UTK’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. For more information regarding activity on this issue, click here.Tags: House Budget Hearing, UT