Governor Bill Lee conducted his departmental budget hearings this week. On Tuesday, the state’s higher education institutions provided updates and shared their budget proposals with the governor. President Randy Boyd used the opportunity to share his appreciation for the UT faculty, staff, and students and highlighted their determination and perseverance to ensure the University is completing its mission, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. He stated, “we believe greatness is defined not by how you deal with the good times, but how you deal with adversity.” Boyd shared the efforts across the UT System to serve the state, from volunteering to deliver meals to school-age children to leading the creation of COVID-19 testing sites to educating more Tennesseans than ever before.
Boyd focused on four budget priorities for the UT System at the hearing.
Supporting UT Extension Offices in Distressed Counties:
A top priority for the University is securing funds to support the UT Institute of Agriculture and UT Extension offices in rural, distressed counties. Boyd praised the work of extension offices during the hearing, including their distribution of personal protective equipment to state residents, among other initiatives. The funding would provide 32 new extension agents in the state’s rural, distressed counties.
Supporting the Health Science Center:
UT will seek an increase in operational funding to support the UT Health Science Center as it continues its mission-critical work of preparing the state’s healthcare workforce. During the hearing, Boyd highlighted multiple areas in which the UT Health Science Center has served the state in recent months during the COVID-19 pandemic, including managing a surge center and testing sites.
Funding the Oak Ridge Institute:
The Oak Ridge Institute (ORI) will continue to be one of UT’s top priorities. During the hearing, Boyd referred to the ORI as “the Manhattan project of our decade” and emphasized its impact on the state’s future workforce. The ORI is a transformational opportunity for Tennessee’s science and technology workforce 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.
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 2.6 percent. Full funding is critical to the state’s success and UT’s ability to keep higher education affordable for students.