UT Leaders Advocate for Priorities on Capitol Hill

President Boyd with Chairman White

First Day of Session
UT Interim President Randy Boyd and UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman were on hand in Nashville to welcome members back for the legislative session. The two leaders made numerous visits on Tuesday, Jan. 14 to advocate for funding for the Oak Ridge Institute (ORI) and the UT Institute of Agriculture (UTIA), as well as Graduate Medical Education, which are top priorities for the University this session.

Other priorities for the University this session are also described below.

Funding the Higher Education Outcomes Funding Formula
UT will continue to seek full funding of the state’s higher education outcomes funding formula, which would result in a funding increase of $38 million across Tennessee public colleges and universities.  Full funding is critical to the state’s success and UT’s ability to keep higher education affordable for students.

The Oak Ridge Institute (ORI): Answering America’s call to train scientists in fields that keep our nation safe
The ORI is a transformational opportunity for the State of Tennessee and answers the national call to increase America’s production of scientists and engineers in key areas such as Quantum Sciences and Artificial Intelligence to further national economic and security interests. The Institute will provide a platform for a major expansion of research and doctoral-level degree production that will benefit the region, state and nation.

At full capacity, ORI will comprise of 60 new world-class faculty researchers matched by 60 new Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists and 500 graduate students, delivering an additional $150 million per year in research and economic development. The University is requesting an $80 million state investment over a ten-year period, which would leverage federal research funds at an estimated rate of 7-to-1.

Supporting Tennessee agriculture and our distressed, rural counties
A top priority for the University will be securing new recurring funding for UTIA. UT is requesting $6.6 million to increase the number of extension agents in rural and distressed counties and allow for at least one full-time county agent to support the 4-H, family and consumer sciences, and agriculture and natural resources program areas. The funding would provide 32 new agents in the state’s financially distressed counties that need assistance the most. If approved, funding would also allow UTIA to make needed operational improvements to support what remains the state’s top industry – agriculture.

Graduate Medical Education (GME):  Doing our part to improve access to health care
Tennessee has a surplus of medical school graduates and a shortage of residencies. The federal government has not increased residency slots in roughly 20 years. Greater state funding of medical residencies increases access to care, especially in rural and underserved areas. In 2019, UT led the way to increase state funding for medical residencies. We will do so again in 2020.

Smart Cities: Innovation to Make Cities Safer and More Efficient
UT Chattanooga’s Center for Urban Informatics and Progress continues to receive national recognition for its work in Smart Cities technology, research, and applications. Research funding for this initiative continues to be a legislative priority and will help create unique opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. A smart city is a designation given to a city that incorporates information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance the quality and performance of urban services such as energy, transportation and utilities in order to reduce resource consumption, wastage and overall costs.

UT Martin Requests Demolition Funding
UT Martin has requested $800,000 in one-time funding for demolition of former housing facilities. Typically the state includes demolition funding in new or replacement capital project costs. Given there is no planned replacement, UTM is making this special funding request.