Haslam on Higher Ed: ‘The most insular world I’ve ever seen’

Gov. Bill Haslam says that changing the direction of higher education is “more than a battleship,” but that he eventually expects to change its governing structure, according to Hank Hayes report on a meeting with members of the Kingsport Times-News Editorial Board.
An excerpt:
“It’s such an insular world. It’s the most insular world I’ve ever seen,” Haslam, a Republican, said of higher education.
After a top-to-bottom review last year, Haslam didn’t push for change in the state’s higher education governing structure.
That governing structure features two big boards — the Tennessee Board of Regents and the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees — in addition to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the state’s coordinating agency for higher education.
Haslam admitted he hasn’t figured out what to do with the governing structure.
“There’s as many answers as there are states as to how it should be set up,” he said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think governance structure is our primary issue … (but) I think we address governance structure before we leave here. At the end of the day, it matters.”
In the meantime, Haslam said his administration is “hacking away” at other pieces of higher education in an attempt to entice Tennesseans to get more college diplomas.
His budget proposal calls for a partnership with Western Governors University to offer online courses with a goal of increasing the percentage of Tennesseans with a post-secondary credential from 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025.
Haslam has proposed starting a $35 million endowment to provide scholarships to students from low-income families through the Tennessee Student Assistance Corp.
He has also appointed Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd to be the head of an ongoing higher education review effort.
One part of that effort, said Haslam, is expanding college affordability.
“I would love for a middle-income family to send a kid to a two-year program for free,” Haslam said. “We don’t think we’re all that far from coming up with a formula for making that happen.”
State government, Haslam pointed out, is now funding higher education based on college completion instead of enrollment. It’s all part of a work force development strategy.
“We need more engineer majors. We need more welders. We need more computer science majors. You will see us investing in those buildings and places that increase capacity,” Haslam said.
But Haslam indicated the biggest looming issue is how the state will react to the federal health care reform law, also known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
When he submitted his budget proposal to lawmakers, Haslam deferred one ACA decision — whether Tennessee should expand its Medicaid system.
“We could decide to expand tomorrow, or we could expand it five years from now,” Haslam said of the decision.
ACA’s changing Medicaid eligibility requirements, however, will bring more people into the program and cost the state $150 million to $200 million even without expansion, Haslam said.

7 thoughts on “Haslam on Higher Ed: ‘The most insular world I’ve ever seen’

  1. Tom BEEBE

    How can we make market forces introduce some discipline into higher education choices? We have too many lawyers, for instance, but as Haslam noted, too few welders. The biggest deterrent to matching education with need is the time lag. Perhaps we should encourage law firms and metal workers to sponsor students by encouraging then through tax breaks, rather than student loans and grants paid directly to the students/institutions. Just more scholarships, etc, will only make the mismatch worse.

  2. Neale

    Maybe Tenn has just figured out that they don’t want to send their children to institutions that teach diametrically opposed morals and philosophy to their own beliefs – and be forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the priveledge.

  3. TNMom

    For starters, get the federal government out of education. The online paperwork required when applying to college with all of the government involvement is absurd. Why does the family income have anything to do with college scholarship based on student achievement? Nothing, but the Feds want to know, the schools want to know, and they want to make decisions based on fairness. Go away, government.

  4. michael

    It’s not just “Higher” Education. k-12 is just as bad or worse, even in small rural communities where I served on the BOE. Teachers view themselves as an elite force who look down on parents and community as lower forms of life who live to serve their elite class as masters of the Ed Universe. They blame a lack of parental and community involvement, but reject any participation other than as unpaid mules for the dirty work that’s beneath them. They have become a self-determined Entitled Class, who rule over others.

  5. Keating Willcox

    y’know, the University of South Africa has a strong program for distance ed degrees, for motivated students, of about $1,200 year. $5,000 gets you the entire B.S.
    Why we can’t do that is a mystery.

  6. Jeff

    Keating there is a reason, the University of South Africa has yet to discover the words “peer institution” and how it can increase the apparent need for more money.
    In time I am sure the administration in south Africa will come up with a list of “peers” and point out how little funding they receive and how little they pay their faculty and staff.

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