Category Archives: Higher Education

ETSU student in gorilla mask disrupts Black Lives Matter protest

A barefoot man wearing overalls and a gorilla mask, trying to hand out noose-wrapped bananas to Black Lives Matter demonstrators, was taken into custody by East Tennessee State University public safety officers Wednesday, reports the Johnson City Press.

According to a news release from the public safety office, freshman Tristan Rettke was charged with civil rights intimidation. Saying Rettke’s actions “go against the values of our university where people come first and all are treated with dignity and respect,” the university said the student has been placed on interim suspension. Criminal charges were pending before the local district attorney, and an internal student-conduct investigation was underway.

ETSU President Brian Noland held a press conference in the afternoon to speak out against what he saw Wednesday. And Noland did watch, almost in real time as it happened, via a video on a student’s Facebook page.

“I was offended, but I was also saddened,” Noland said about his personal response to Rettke’s behavior. “The nation is not only raw, but it’s healing.”

Noland praised the Black Lives Matter demonstrators for their peaceful rally and handling of the disruption.

…Rettke also carried with him a burlap sack that had a Confederate battle flag and marijuana leaf on it. He told officers he bought the attire and items to provoke the Black Lives Matter protesters after having learned about it on social media site Yik Yak.

Haslam takes charge in Regents chief search

Gov. Bill Haslam says he is personally leading the search for a new head of the state Board of Regents because an era of dramatic change is at hand, reports the Times-Free Press.

“As the Tennessee Board of Regents transitions to having a different look, this new chancellor position is critical,” Haslam emphasized last week as a 16-member search committee got underway.

Haslam was alluding to his major overhaul of the TBR system that now includes six universities, 13 community colleges, including those in Chattanooga and Cleveland, and 27 colleges of applied technology.

As a result of Haslam’s FOCUS Act, approved by lawmakers earlier this year, the Tennessee Board of Regents in 2017 will shed its six universities, which will operate independently with self-governing boards.

The regents will focus on a new core mission for community colleges and technical schools, one that’s central to Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative that calls for 55 percent of Tennesseans to have college degrees or technical certificates by 2025.

All this comes as Tennessee basks in national attention over its Tennessee Promise program that offers free, last-dollar lottery-funded scholarships at TBR schools to state high school graduates.

…”Whoever the next chancellor is is going to be key in that whole effort,” Haslam said. “So for the first time ever I am actually chairing a search committee because I think the position is so important.”

The other members include five regents, faculty, student, alumni, business and community leaders Nashville…He hopes the nominee can be approved by the full Board of Regents in December and start work in January.

Winfield Dunn busted at UT Memphis

A bronze bust of former Gov. Winfield Dunn, a dentist who served as Tennessee’s governor from 1971-75, was unveiled Tuesday in the lobby of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Dentistry building that bears his name, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Dunn, 89, graduated from the college in 1955 and served as honorary chairman of a capital campaign that once raised $19 million for the college. He was instrumental in winning the first donation from the state of Tennessee in the history of the college, said its dean, Timothy Hottel.

Uses of the funds include renovations to the Dunn Dental Building, which opened in 1977 at 875 Union.

Dunn, a Republican governor, attended with his son, Chuck. He took a photograph of the bust with his smart phone to send to his wife, Betty, who could not attend, he said.

The bust was made by an anplastologist at the college, Maddie Singer. Singer said she visited the Dunns and worked from photographs while checking with the family to ensure the likeness. Anaplastologists, using art and science, provide patients with custom-designed prosthetics for the face, eyes or body.

Mike Krause named new executive director of THEC

News release from the governor’s office
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointment of Mike Krause as executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC).

Krause has served as executive director of the Drive to 55 since 2014 and successfully managed the launch and implementation of Tennessee Promise and the other initiatives under the Drive to 55 umbrella.

“Mike’s enthusiasm for higher education and his passion for making college accessible to all Tennesseans have led to the success of Tennessee Promise. He has been an instrumental part of my administration, leading our efforts to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025, and I know he will use that same drive and focus to help lead THEC during this exciting time for higher education in Tennessee,” Haslam said.

Dr. Russ Deaton, who has served as THEC’s interim executive director since the retirement of Dr. Richard Rhoda in 2014, will serve as deputy executive director of THEC. Deaton began at THEC in 2000 as a policy analyst and later served nine years as the director of fiscal policy analysis.

“I am grateful to Russ for his steady leadership at THEC over the past two years and excited that we’ll continue to have his depth of experience on our higher education team,” Haslam said.

Krause takes the helm at THEC as it assumes an enhanced role under the Focus On College and Student Success (FOCUS) Act, which charged THEC with providing greater coordination of Tennessee’s higher education systems across the state, including capital project management, institutional mission approval and higher education finance strategy.

Established in 1967, THEC oversees development of the state’s master plan for higher education, makes recommendations for capital appropriations in the governor’s budget, establishes tuition levels and approves new academic programs.

In addition, Krause will jointly lead the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC), which administers state and federal student financial assistance programs, including the state lottery scholarship program, which serves 100,000 students with $300 million in awards.

“Three years into our Drive to 55, we have more Tennesseans going to college and fewer students needing remediation once they get there. We’ve made remarkable progress in higher education under Governor Haslam’s leadership, and I am excited to work with our legislators, employers and higher education leaders to further leverage this momentum to benefit Tennesseans,” Krause said. ”In Tennessee, we’re working to make sure that every student – from the high school graduate to the returning adult – has the tools he or she needs to access and succeed in higher education and find a quality job in the workforce.”

Prior to directing the Drive to 55, Krause, 34, served as assistant executive director for academic affairs at THEC, where he led the successful statewide expansion of the SAILS (Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support) program, pioneered state efforts in massive open online education and coordinated multiple grant programs.

Before joining state government, Krause served for eight years in the United States Army and Tennessee Army National Guard. He completed three combat tours as a member of the 101st Airborne Division and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

An eighth generation Tennessean, Krause earned his bachelor’s degree from Austin Peay State University and master’s in public policy from Vanderbilt University. He and his wife, Chrissi, live in Williamson County and have a young son, Max.

Krause joins THEC on August 1.

State parks to benefit from TN Promise scholars labor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Promise scholars can perform community service hours with events planned across the state later this month.

State parks and natural areas are offering the events on July 23 at all 56 parks. The student volunteers can clear brush, limbs and invasive plants; plant flowers; build trails; assist with community events; or maintain historic features.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said in a news release the projects are designed to beautify the parks and natural areas and provide meaningful outdoors experiences for the volunteers.

Tennessee Promise provides tuition-free community and technical college to recent high school graduates. This fall, all Tennessee Promise students using the program are required to complete eight hours of community service by Aug. 1.

For a list of events and to register, visit http://www.tnstateparks.com/about/special-event-cards/tn-promise-saturday or contact Nancy Schelin at (615) 532-5249 or nancy.schelin@tn.gov.

Board of Regents signs off on tuition increases averaging 2.6 percent

News release from Tennessee Board of Regents
The Tennessee Board of Regents (Friday) approved the lowest increases in undergraduate tuition since 1983.

Tuition rates at the six TBR universities, 13 community colleges and 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology will increase an average of 2.6 percent for the 2016-17 academic year.

The action, taken during the TBR quarterly meeting at Northeast State Community College, represents the lowest average increases in more than 30 years. The increases are within the range recommended by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. Continue reading

Veteran TN Capitol Hill reporter Rick Locker moves to Board of Regents

Richard “Rick” Locker, a Tennessee Capitol Hill reporter for 34 years and currently providing state government coverage for three major newspapers, has resigned to become communications director for the state Board of Regents.

Locker, a Lincoln County native and University of Tennessee-Knoxville graduate, began his newspaper career with the Knoxville Journal, serving there for three years before joining the Nashville Banner staff. He then signed on as Nashville correspondent for the Commercial Appeal of Memphis in 1982.

In 2014, Locker began covering the doings of legislators, governors, state government departments and such for the News Sentinel of Knoxville as well. This year, after Gannett bought the Commercial Appeal and the News Sentinel, his articles began appearing regularly in The Tennessean, too.

At the Board of Regents, Locker will succeed Monica Greppin-Watts, who has taken a position with the University of Alabama. He will begin the new job July 1, Locker said.

Says Locker in an email:

“I love and cherish my time at The Commercial Appeal and more recently at the News Sentinel too. Both are indispensable institutions in their communities, and the coverage they provide is essential to our democracy. It’s been a high honor and a privilege to cover state government and politics for West and East Tennesseans.”

Update/Note: See also the Nashville Scene blog post on Locker’s exit, HERE.

UT tuition increase of 2.2 percent would be lowest in 30 years

University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro has proposed tuition increases for the UT system of about 2.2 percent, which he says is the lowest increase in more than 30 years, according to the Times-Free Press.

“Shout it from the mountaintop,” DiPietro quipped. “As always, action by the UT Board of Trustees is required for fee or tuition increases and, therefore, nothing is official until after the board meets.”

That will come Wednesday and Thursday when first a committee and later the full UT board votes on a plan to cap tuition increases to 2.2 percent in most cases for the proposed 2016-2017 fiscal year budget.

…Under the overall proposal, some students at UT-Martin will participate in a restructured fee program called “Soar in Four,” designed to reduce the cost of obtaining an undergraduate degree by incentivizing completion in four years.

And undergraduates in UT-Knoxville’s “Take 15, Graduate in 4” program who were admitted in 2013-2014 will see a 3 percent tuition increase. Previous increases for the group have been capped at lower-than-average levels in previous years, resulting in average annual increases of 2.2 percent over the last four years, according to UT.

The 2.2 percent cap, dubbed the “maintenance fee,” applies to most in-state and out-of-state undergraduates with the exception of those who would be included in Martin’s “Soar in Four” program.

Some graduate programs are not increasing tuition. Others are proposing increases from 2.2 percent to 5 percent.

State paying for college counselors at 30 TN high schools

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has announced the launch of a $2.4 million program that will provide college counselors to 30 public high schools across the state.

The aim of Advise TN is to realize the state’s goal to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree to 55 percent by 2025, the governor’s office said in a statement last Thursday.

“Research tells us that having a school-wide culture … of students knowing that college isn’t only an option for them but it’s an expectation — is one of the best indicators of whether students will pursue higher education,” Haslam said in the statement. “This program will provide schools across the state with one more adult in students’ lives, focused on helping them navigate the transition from high school to college.”

Counselors will be hired and trained in the summer and will work with about 10,000 juniors and seniors statewide. They will help students prepare for the ACT, work on college applications and take advantage of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid program offered by the U.S. Department of Education.

To be eligible, high schools must have average college-going rates that fall below the state average. Public high schools must apply to participate and will be selected by the Tennessee Higher Education Committee based on their commitment to creating a college-going culture.

Advise TN was included in Haslam’s 2016-17 budget with funding of $2.5 million. High schools selected to participate in Advise TN are expected to develop plans to continue the program after state funding has ended.

Regents universities offer some big discounts on out-of-state tuition

For the first time, all six four-year universities in the Tennessee Board of Regents system will offer big discounts in out-of-state tuition to some students this fall, according to WPLN. To get the discounts, students must live within 250 miles of the university and have high ACT scores.

This new rule covers a wide area. Take Tennessee State University: If you put the school in the center of a circle, and draw radius of 250 miles in all directions, you cover as far north as Indianapolis, northwest to St. Louis, east to Asheville, and down to Atlanta.

TSU senior Jordan Gaither is from Atlanta. He and his parents currently pay all his tuition out of pocket. “With me being an out of student, it is definitely a lot,” he says.

But under the new rule, his tuition for the upcoming year will be cut by about $9,000. It’s still not quite as cheap as the in-state rate, but it’s enough to take off a big burden, he says. “I don’t take that for granted at all.”

This kind of 250-mile program first started in 2014 at the University of Memphis. The campus is right on the border, and it already gave in-state tuition to students from neighboring counties, but the school wanted to attract more students from the whole region. Vice-provost Steve McKellips says some students might even stay in Memphis after college.

“This is a major initiative that helps the university, helps the community, helps the workforce development, helps the students — it kind of has a win on all four sides,” he says.