UT President Presents Top Funding Requests at Governor’s Budget Hearing

President Joe DiPietro Presents Budget Testimony

Governor Bill Haslam held his higher education budget hearing on November 8, where UT President Joe DiPietro and other public higher education leaders put forth their top funding requests for the next fiscal year.  The hearing represents a public “launch-point” of sorts in the state’s overall budget process.  State entities, like the University of Tennessee, outline their priorities for the Governor’s consideration as he prepares his budget proposal, which is traditionally unveiled in late January or early February in conjunction with the State of the State Address.  The Governor’s proposal is then considered by the state legislature, who ultimately approves the spending plan.

DiPietro opened today’s testimony with a message of good stewardship and achievement.  During his presidency, UT has aggressively sought cost-saving opportunities that will generate over $68 million in savings and reallocations by the end of the fiscal year.  At the same time, tuition increases at UT have been held to their lowest levels in over 30 years for two years running.  DiPietro announced that he anticipates this trend to continue for the third year in a row—an unprecedented move that signals an unwavering commitment to managing the affordability of a UT education.

The following funding priorities were presented for the Governor’s consideration:

Construction Hat IconUT Martin’s New STEM Classroom Building
Anticipated to be the single greatest academic project to transform the UT Martin campus and region, the new STEM building will house UTM’s engineering and science classrooms and laboratories.  UT is requesting $58.5 million in state funding, which it will combine with the single largest gift in UTM’s history to bring the project to fruition.  The project also is estimated to have significant regional impacts, adding $56.3 million in income and creating 901 jobs from the first shovel in the ground through the first 10 years of graduates.  The current facility was built in 1961.

Construction Hat IconUT Knoxville’s New Engineering Services Facility
UT is seeking $90 million in state funding to leverage $29 million in institutional funds and $10 million in private gift dollars to build the new facility, which will provide cutting-edge research and instructional space for the Nuclear Engineering program (one of the nation’s highest ranked) and student services space for the UTK College of Engineering.

Big Data IconCreation of a New “Big Data” Doctoral Program
Big data is all around us—from every pixel of surveillance video to every swipe of store loyalty cards by customers all over the world.  There is an urgent workforce need to prepare experts in the use of big data to make organizations smarter and more efficient.  UT seeks a one-time, $6 million investment from the state to develop a one-of-a-kind doctoral program to train leaders who can use big data to maximize organizational performance.

Science IconRecruiting More Top Scientists to UT
Since UT and Oak Ridge National Lab jointly established the Governor’s Chair Program, it has been a game-changer for UT and the state.  The Governor’s Chairs—a group of 14 world-class scientists renowned as some of the nation’s top research authorities —have brought over half a billion dollars in new research awards to UT.  UT is seeking $1 million in new state investment to recruit four more Governor’s Chairs in the next year.

Agriculture IconFunding for the UT Institute of Agriculture AgLaunch Program
As part of the Governor’s Rural Task Force, UT is seeking a $400,000 state investment to support the AgLaunch program. AgLaunch will help Tennessee farmers in distressed counties increase their efficiency, create new supply chains, and bolster regional agricultural distribution.

Funding IconFull Funding of the Performance-Based Higher Education Funding Formula
The President announced his support for the anticipated Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s (THEC) funding formula recommendation, which would provide a 5.5 percent increase, or almost the same amount of new funding for UT as was received last year.

outreachIncreased Funding for UT Institutions That Provide Services to All Tennesseans
The President announced his support for the anticipated 2.7 percent operating increase proposed by THEC for UT’s non-formula units, which include outreach-centric units such as the UT Institute of Agriculture, the Institute for Public Service, and the UT Health Science Center.  From the cities we live in to the food we eat to the doctor we see, these units provide services that benefit Tennesseans in every community.

These funding requests, along with the requests of other state entities and agencies, now will be weighed by the Governor as he crafts his proposed budget for next fiscal year.  The Governor’s budget proposal will be released after the State of the State Address in early 2017, and considered by the legislature later in the spring.  The legislature typically passes an amended budget by late April.  Stay tuned for further coverage as the budget process progresses.

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