A report from Hank Hayes:
BLOUNTVILLE — Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told higher education officials Monday that contrary to their wishes, he will introduce legislation to allow handgun carry permit holders to keep their weapons locked up in their personal vehicles.
“I’ve already got it drafted …The (newspaper) headline will be ‘Guns On Campus,’ but that’s not what we’re talking about,” Ramsey, R-Blountville, said of the bill at an annual luncheon held at Northeast State Community College between area lawmakers and higher education officials affiliated with the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR).
College campus police chiefs, in addition to business interests, opposed a bill in the last legislative session to prevent employers and landowners from prohibiting gun permit holders from storing guns in locked personal vehicles. The bill didn’t make it to floor votes in the House or Senate.
Dean Blevins, director of the Tennessee Technology Center at Elizabethton, reminded lawmakers early in the meeting that TBR opposes “any attempt to expand the presence of guns on college campuses” and asked them to exempt the higher education system out of any gun legislation.
After Blevins spoke, higher education operational and capital needs dominated the luncheon discussion until Ramsey took his gun permit card out of his wallet and held it up.
“It amazes me that when you put g-u-n in a sentence, people seem to lose common sense,” Ramsey, R-Blountville, said. “Something is going to pass this year. I want to put this behind us and forget about it. …About four percent of the people in the state of Tennessee have a gun carry permit card. …You have to take a half-day class, take a test on a (shooting) range, and go through a TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation) and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) background check.
There’s always been anecdotal evidence that one college’s nursing program was better than another, for instance, or that jobs weren’t as plentiful for people with degrees in medieval language as, say, in business.
Further from the Commercial Appeal: The veil lifts Tuesday with the launch of a website collegemeasures.org/ESM/Tennessee that shows first-year earnings of graduates in every field of study, allowing taxpayers (and their college-bound offspring) to see which majors are most lucrative and compare first-year pay across state-sponsored schools.
Graduates in health fields at the University of Memphis (with average starting salary of $59,570) earn more than graduates in any major in any public college in Tennessee and nearly $5,000 more than graduates in the same programs at Middle Tennessee State University.
The highest paying degrees are in the medical and engineering fields; the lowest are philosophy and religious studies, with grads from Austin Peay State University making $20,500 – $7,000 less than grads in the same majors at UT-Martin.
Sen. Lamar Alexander’s contention that rising Medicaid costs drain money away from public colleges and universities drew a challenge Thursday from Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin.
Further from The Tennessean: The issue arose at a hearing of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee on the affordability of higher education.
Alexander, a Republican on the committee, repeated his argument that spending on Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor, deprives states of funds they could use to support their higher education systems and reduce costs for students and their families.
Over the last 30 years, Alexander said, the share of state budgets devoted to Medicaid has increased from 8 percent to 25 percent.
“That’s true everywhere in the country. This is not President (Barack) Obama. This has been going on for 30 years,” the second-term senator said.
Alexander said states should propose a swap where the federal government would take over all Medicaid costs and the states would handle all education costs. It would leaves states better off, he said, by $92 billion a year.
Afterward, the Tennessee senator said he is drafting legislation to be introduced next year that would offer several options for helping to reduce state Medicaid costs, including his swap idea.
But with Alexander gone from the hearing, Harkin, a Democrat and the committee chairman, took issue with blaming higher education’s financial problems on Medicaid. Many factors have caused Medicaid costs to soar, Harkin said, including the fact that poverty has been increasing.
“We have a growing number of poor people,” he said. “Just look at the data.”
And, Harkin said, there is a moral responsibility involved.
“They (the poor) still have to be taken care of,” he said. “I hope we are not trying to pit poor kids against college kids.”
States have also hurt themselves, the Iowa senator said, by repeatedly cutting taxes in good times, putting a greater squeeze on their budgets during bad times.
To get state funding for new programs in Tennessee higher education, older ones will have to go, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “What we want to know is: If you want to invest in something new, creative, what are you going to divest? Most great businesses do that,” Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday at a roundtable of legislators and business and higher education leaders in Chattanooga.
Still, while he said he’s committed to ending Tennessee’s decades-long practice of slashing post-secondary education funding, it doesn’t appear that new funding will be available anytime soon.
Haslam spoke at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the seventh and last in a series of statewide discussions. The listening tour was meant to inform the governor’s policy decisions as he sets out to overhaul higher education.
With continued cost increases, particularly for Medicaid, Haslam said, colleges and universities must prioritize where they spend their money. The state has cut higher education funding for decades, putting more burden on families and students through tuition and fee hikes.
“When we look at capital for post-secondary education, we’re going to look at: Are we putting that where the demand is? … I think you’ll see us funding post-secondary education more strategically because of some of these conversations,” Haslam said.
“Part of the issue is on us. And part of it’s on post-secondary to figure out how we’re going to do this in a more effective way.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointments of seven new members to Tennessee’s higher education boards.
Evan Cope and Adam Jarvis will serve as new members of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC). Vicky Gregg, Shalin Shah and Victoria Steinberg will serve as new members of the University of Tennessee (UT) Board of Trustees. Ashley Humphrey and Dr. Bob Raines will serve as members of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR).
The governor serves as chairman of the board of directors for the TBR and UT systems, and in July, Haslam announced his focus on post-secondary education in Tennessee, particularly in the areas of affordability, access, quality and workforce development.
“While college isn’t for everyone, when only 23 percent of Tennesseans have a degree from a four-year institution, we need to do a better job of preparing more students to go to college and to graduate,” Haslam said. “I appreciate the willingness of these men and women to serve the state, and I look forward to working with them as we work to tackle these complex issues.”
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE), July 12, 2012 — Senate Education Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) released a response today giving Senate Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) authorization to probe allegations at TSU regarding grade alterations. Summerville sent Gresham a formal letter of request yesterday asking for permission to hold hearings after it was reported that the TSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors claimed that “someone in the administration” changed many student grades from Incompletes to Cs.
“This is to acknowledge and approve your request to conduct hearings on the allegations of grade tampering at Tennessee State University,” Gresham said in responding to Summerville’s request. “I am confident that you and your subcommittee will determine the facts and scope of the situation and subsequently offer a report with recommendations for corrective action. As you know, compliance with the Complete College Tennessee Act with fidelity and integrity is our highest priority.”
“You are authorized direct liaison with other agencies as appropriate,” she continued.
Other members of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee are Senator Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) and Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville).
Gresham said the date for the hearings will be set by Senator Summerville.
— UPDATE: Senate Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) has set a date of July Aug. 25, 2012 for the Senate Higher Education Committee to address the issues surrounding allegations of grade changes made at Tennessee State University. The hearing will be located in Room 29 of the Legislative Plaza in Nashville at 1:00 pm.
Gov. Bill Haslam Tuesday began a round of talks about higher education that, he said, may eventually lead to an infusion of more state funding and some restructuring of operations at the University of Tennessee and the Board of Regents systems.
But the governor told academic and business officials at the initial gathering that he sees a need for “measuring the quality of output by higher education,” especially as it applies producing graduates for available jobs, and for making the system more cost-efficient.
Haslam said he next plans seven regional “roundtable” discussions and will then decide whether to propose a package of legislation to the General Assembly in 2013. It may well be, he said, that most changes can be accomplished through administrative actions and the process will continue for “two or three years.”
The first focus, he said, is asking business, “What are you not getting from us that you need?” and collecting answers with the goal of making colleges better able to prepare graduates for jobs. That could include stepped-up counseling of students, he and others said.
News release from United Campus Workers:
Days after the University of Tennessee system’s Board of Trustees and the Tennessee Board of Regents raised tuition and fees for their respective campuses, and following Governor Bill Haslam’s announcement of a conference on the future of higher education to be held this Tuesday, United Campus Workers-Communications Workers of America local 3865 has issued a call to Haslam to include staff, faculty, and students from the campuses in the dialogue.
While invitees include politicians and even representatives of the Tennessee Chamber
of Commerce, the Governor’s office left out invitations to those people who are at the heart of the state’s higher education system: its faculty, staff, and students.
“We’re confused and disheartened by the Governor’s choice to privilege business interests over the interests of the people who are most directly involved in the higher education system,” said Tom Anderson, President of UCW-CWA and staff at the university of Tennessee-Knoxville. “We want to be at the table because we think we’re in the best position to see what’s working–and maybe more importantly what isn’t working. Any solution is going to involve all of us, so why aren’t all of us being asked to participate in this conversation?”
From House Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) issued the following statement regarding Governor Haslam’s July 10th Post-Secondary Education Review Kick-off to be held at the Executive Residence with business leaders and other stakeholders: “While I commend Governor Bill Haslam on beginning a review of higher education, I am disappointed that he has chosen to do so in a partisan manner. When it comes to higher education, we need a diversity of opinions–not the party line. Every major education reform–from Career Ladder to the Basic Education Plan to the Complete College Act–has been done on a bipartisan basis. Yet when the review team meets for the first time today, not a single member of the minority party will be present. We are disappointed that Governor Haslam has chosen to ignore Tennessee’s successful history of bipartisan reforms by excluding legislators from the minority party. House Democrats stand ready to have a serious discussion about higher education. We hope Governor Haslam will reconsider his actions and take a more balanced, bipartisan approach going forward.”
Gov. Bill Haslam has sent an invitation to members of the UT Board of Trustee, the Board of Regents and others sheds for a meeting next week that will launch his planned review of higher education with an eye toward some sort of changes, reports Richard Locker. “Governor Haslam is kicking off his review of post-secondary education in Tennessee by convening higher education and business leaders from across the state. The meeting will also feature presentations by three leading higher education policy experts and the Governor will moderate discussions after each presentation,” the invitation says.
The governor’s press office said Monday that the invitation list also includes the top administrators of the two college and university systems, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (which serves 35 private, nonprofit institutions), the two speakers of the state House and Senate, the chairmen of the House and Senate finance and education committees, and officers of the Tennessee Business Roundtable and Tennessee Chamber of Commerce. The meeting will run from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the governor’s residence.
Haslam has said that topics he wants to explore include higher ed financing, construction needs and “governance” — the administrative structure of the two college and university systems and the campuses themselves. That includes, he has said, greater autonomy for the University of Memphis within the Board of Regents system.
And while state appropriations for K-12 public education have steadily increased during the recession, they have actually declined for higher education, including another 2 percent cut in general appropriations for the upcoming school year. As a result, tuition and fees have steadily increased as students and their families have picked up an increasing share of the costs of their college educations. Through the mid-1980s, the state paid about 70 percent of what its public colleges and universities cost to operate. By the 2011-12 school year, the state’s share was down to 34 percent for the universities and 40 percent at the community colleges, according to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
From 1993, when many of last year’s college freshmen were born, through the last school year, tuition and mandatory fees paid by in-state students on the state’s public campuses rose by an average 340 percent. Over the last two weeks, the two governing boards have approved tuition and fee increases of 8 percent at UT Knoxville, 7 percent at the U of M and several other TBR schools, and between 4 and 5 percent at community colleges.