UT President Presents Top Funding Priorities in FY18-19 Budget Hearing

President Joe DiPietro Presents Budget Testimony

Governor Bill Haslam kicked off his annual budget hearings this week, hearing the requests and funding priorities of state agencies, departments, and public institutions of higher education.  The funding priorities of state entities are weighed each year in light of competing interests, available resources, and the Governor’s priorities as he prepares his spending plan for consideration by the Tennessee General Assembly.  The proposed state budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 will be the final one prepared by the Haslam Administration as the Governor completes his second term.

UT President Joe DiPietro announced UT’s top funding requests for FY18-19 in today’s hearing, while also highlighting efforts underway at the University of Tennessee to become more efficient and effective.

The President presented the following state funding requests:

Graduation Day

Full Funding of the Performance-Based Higher Education Funding Formula
UT continues to work hard to ensure its campuses are the top performers in the state and the state’s higher education funding formula rewards performance.  President DiPietro has urged the Governor to propose fully-funding the Higher Education Performance Funding Formula.

UT President DiPietro visits with Governors Chair

Enhancing UT’s Research Leadership
The President asked for $1 million in recurring funds to recruit more Governor’s Chair scientists to the University of Tennessee over the next year.  The Governor’s Chair program currently has 17 world-class scientists tackling some of the nation’s most pressing issues.  Since the program began in 2006, Governor’s Chairs have brought in nearly half a billion dollars in new research funding to UT and Tennessee in areas like advanced manufacturing and computational sciences.  Their contributions have helped UT Knoxville achieve one of the fastest-growing research enterprises in the country.

Aerial Photo of Chattanooga

Chattanooga Smart Cities Initiative
President DiPietro asked for a one-time $6 million investment to build capacity for the Chattanooga Smart Cities Initiative.  Over the past two decades, Chattanooga has rapidly emerged as a leader of urban renewal and sustainable development. Today, it is widely recognized as one of the innovative “smart” cities both nationally and internationally. The economic impact of maintaining the leading edge as a smart city will be significant for Chattanooga, including capabilities to attract new industry and companies, and UTC’s role to support that goal is essential.  Urban science and technology is one of the priority research areas at UTC.  In order to lead the nation in developing technologies for smart cities of the future, realize opportunities to train more students, and attract additional research funding, UTC needs new resources to support additional faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students.

Opioid Crisis Image

Combatting the Opioid Crisis Through the UT Center for Addiction Science
Three million in funding was requested for the UT Health Science Center’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis through the Center for Addiction Science.  If funded, the program would work to address addiction in every portion of the state and in all demographics.  The program would develop model curriculum in this area and require certification of all new MDs and medical residents in UT’s College of Medicine.  The curriculum is ultimately intended for all US medical schools and residency programs.  The program would also train Addiction Medicine Fellows to serve as “catalysts for care” across the State of Tennessee.

The UT Health Science Center hosts the first nationally-designated Center for Addiction Science in the country and is uniquely situated to spearhead this major initiative for the treatment of addiction in Tennessee.

Balance Sheet

Resolving Unfunded, State Mandated Tuition Discounts
State law mandates six different tuition discount and waiver programs for various groups of Tennesseans.  While the goals of these discounts are laudable, the programs are currently severely underfunded by the state.  The state provides only 12 percent of the cost to administer the programs, which accounts for a $7-8 million funding deficiency each year for the University of Tennessee System that must be made up through tuition and fee revenue.  As UT makes every effort to hold down tuition increases, full funding of these state programs is urged.  Full funding of these programs could make available over $1 million at both UT Martin and UT Chattanooga, and over $5 million at UT Knoxville.

Rendering of campus building

Funding for Needed Facilities and Improvements on UT Campuses
President DiPietro highlighted the top two UT priorities in his budget testimony, although a total of five projects, located at UTK, UTC, and UTHSC, have been submitted for potential state funding for FY18-19.  The top two priorities have full matching funds in-hand (UT is required to raise between 10 and 25 percent of the total project cost in matching funds).

  • UT Institute of Agriculture – Energy and Environmental Science Building
    If funded, this facility would replace the Ellington Plant Sciences Building.  It would house teaching laboratories, research and public service labs, new classrooms, and a 500-seat teaching and learning center.  The Departments of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, Entomology and Plant Pathology, and Wildlife & Fisheries and Plant Sciences would reside in the new building.
  • UT Institute of Agriculture – Vet Medical Center – Teaching and Learning Center
    UT is home to one of only 30 accredited colleges of veterinary medicine in the country.  The centerpiece of this project is a clinical simulation skills lab.

An additional $47.5 million has been requested in capital maintenance funding.  This contains projects and improvements to facilities on every UT campus.

UTHSC Employee Appreciation Event

Full Funding of State-Recommended Salary Increases for UT Entities That Do Not Receive Formula Funding
If a cost-of-living adjustment is proposed for state employees in the Governor’s budget, UT advocates for full funding of the salary increases for our “non-formula unit” employees.  This would provide the needed funding for employees of the UT Institute of Agriculture (UTIA), the Institute for Public Service (IPS), and the UT Health Science Center (UTHSC).  These units provide services that benefit Tennesseans in every community but do not receive funding through the performance funding formula.

How You Can Help
Advocates should begin talking with their legislators now about supporting these priority areas.  While it is too soon to tell whether or not they will ultimately be included in Governor Haslam’s budget proposal, legislative support will help raise visibility to UT’s needs and priorities.  Ultimately no state funding is provided without the approval of the state legislature, and educating legislators on priorities is essential to our success.

The Governor’s budget proposal is generally released with his State of the State address, sometime in early 2018.  His spending recommendations will then be considered by the legislature which typically passes an amended budget by late April.

We will keep advocates informed on budget issues and issue calls-to-action if necessary through the UT Advocacy Network.  Thank you for your interest and support.

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