Proposed Haslam Budget Provides Critical Higher Education Funding

Governor Haslam Delivers the Annual State of the State Address

Governor Bill Haslam unveiled his FY 2017-18 budget proposal on Monday evening at the State of the State Address, presenting a $37 billion spending plan with significant investments in higher education.

The Governor’s budget fully funds the performance-based funding formula for higher education, providing $25 million in new funds to be allocated amongst Tennessee’s public universities.   UT’s three campuses awarded funding through the formula – UT Chattanooga, UT Knoxville, and UT Martin – will all see funding increases as a result of their performances, based on metrics set by the state.

The budget proposal also funds 13 higher education capital projects—the entire list recommended by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC).  If enacted by the legislature, this would result in $58.5 million for UT Martin’s new science building as well as $90.3 million for UT Knoxville’s new engineering services facility.  Capital maintenance funding is also recommended for 12 projects at the University of Tennessee, resulting in $57.7 million in maintenance funding system-wide.

Governor Haslam’s recommended budget includes several strategic non-recurring investments that benefit the University of Tennessee System.  Such investments include $3.0 million for the UT Health Science Center to further recruiting efforts for pediatric physician scientists; $6.0 million to the UT-Oak Ridge National Lab partnership to create a new “Big Data” PhD program; and $2.1 million for the UT County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) to create curriculum and implement a statewide Certified County Finance Officer certification program.

The budget proposal provides roughly 55 percent of the needed funding to award UT employees with the recommended state salary increase of 3 percent.   This has been the state’s practice in funding higher education salary increases, leaving campuses to raise the remaining 45 percent through tuition increases or other institutional resources.

The Governor also announced two major programs in expanding his Drive to 55 Initiative—Tennessee Reconnect and Tennessee Strong.  Tennessee Reconnect is aimed at providing last-dollar scholarships for adult learners to attend a Tennessee community college at no cost to the student.  Tennessee Strong would provide last-dollar scholarships to members of the Tennessee National Guard to attend a Tennessee public college or university.

The legislature begins work on the budget today, where Finance Commissioner Larry Martin will detail the Governor’s spending plan with members of the House and Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committees. The legislature typically passes an amended budget by late April.  Stay tuned for further coverage as the legislative process progresses.

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