After pushing changes to teacher tenure laws in 2011 and overhauling civil service this year, Gov. Bill Haslam now plans to take a close look at Tennessee’s system of higher education, including its “cost structure,” reports Action Andy Sher. “You’ll see us turning our attention a lot more to post-secondary education,” the governor said in an interview with Chattanooga Times Free Press reporters and editors last week. “I do think it’s kind of where the challenge is right now.”
Haslam said in addition to examining higher education costs, he wants to boost the number of Tennesseans with college degrees, ensure educational quality and find ways to better mesh the types of graduates with employers’ needs.
Today, members of the Tennessee Board of Regents’ Finance Committee are scheduled to look at yet another round of tuition increases this fall. Recommendations include boosts of 3 percent to 6 percent at most four-year universities and two-year colleges such as Chattanooga State and Cleveland State. Students at the Regents’ state technology centers, meanwhile, are looking at a 5 percent to 10 percent tuition hike.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The House has approved a bill to make the names of applicants to lead public colleges and universities confidential.
The chamber voted 79-12 on Thursday in favor of the measure that the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga, said he introduced on behalf of the University of Tennessee’s board of trustees.
McCormick said the bill would encourage more candidates to apply for the jobs without fear of hurting their current employment. The names of the three finalists would become public at least 15 days before a decision is made about who gets the job, up from seven days in the original version.
The Senate would have to agree to that change before the measure can head for the governor’s consideration.
The names of those applying for the top jobs in Tennessee’s colleges and universities could be kept confidential unless they become a finalist under legislation poised for final passage today.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, who is sponsoring the bill (SB3751) at the behest of officials with the University of Tennessee and Board of Regents systems, said that confidentiality could lead more highly-qualified people to seek jobs as university presidents and college campus chancellors.
But House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh said the present laws making the names of applicants public has worked well, as evidenced by the administrators now in place at state campuses.
The Tennessee Board of Regents is questioning the logic of legislation that prevents public colleges from enforcing nondiscrimination rules on religious student groups, according to WPLN. The bill (SB3597) responds to an ongoing dispute at Vanderbilt University, even though private institutions are excluded. The legislation would prevent administrators from requiring student groups to drop faith requirements for membership or leadership positions, as Vanderbilt has done.
TBR Chancellor John Morgan says he doesn’t know exactly how the proposed law would affect MTSU, Austin Peay or Tennessee Tech, but he doesn’t see a need.
“Far as I know, that has not been an issue at any of the public institutions in Tennessee, yet we’re going to pass a law that only applies to public institutions? It’s hard for me to understand that.”
A summary of the bill – which was scheduled for a Senate vote Monday night (but was postponed until next week) – says religious student organizations would be allowed to choose leaders who are committed to their mission and that no higher education institution could deny recognition of a group because of the religious content of their speech.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that he’s trying to figure out how to carve out a separate governing board for the University of Memphis — with authority to hire and fire the university’s president — in a way that’s fair to other large Tennessee Board of Regents schools, according to Rick Locker. The governor said he’s in discussions about how to accomplish the longtime goals of the U of M’s supporters and advocates for greater autonomy but also set up guidelines for how other schools might follow suit.
He talked about the concept of a UofM board in response to questions in a meeting with The Commercial Appeal’s editorial board, where he discussed details of the broad legislative agenda he presented to state lawmakers on Tuesday.
“I do think that makes sense for the University of Memphis to have their own board,” the governor said. “The University of Memphis has a board of advisers that is really strong and brings a lot to the table. … What I have to figure out is how to do that in context with the rest of the Tennessee Board of Regents.”
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointments of Donald Lee Gatts III and Linda S. Weeks to the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) along with the reappointment of Tom Griscom.
Gatts, the son of Tim and Angie Sells of Livingston and Donnie Gatts of Algood, will serve as the student regent. He is a pre-law student majoring in political science at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville and serves as president of the Student Government Association.
Griscom represents the third congressional district on the Board of Regents. He recently served as communications consultant to the Haslam administration during the transition. He served 11 years as executive editor and publisher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press newspaper. Griscom previously served as director of communications to President Ronald Reagan and press secretary to former Sen. Howard Baker, Jr. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, where he served as an instructor.
Weeks will serve as the faculty regent. She is an associate professor of English at Dyersburg State Community College. She serves as a member of the TBR system-wide Student Rules Committee, and as chairperson of the Teaching-Learning Technology Roundtable. A 1984 graduate of Memphis State University, Weeks holds a master’s in English (technical and professional writing) from the University of Memphis.
“It is a privilege to have these three citizens serve the state of Tennessee in this capacity,” Haslam said. “They possess the skills, expertise and knowledge required to help guide the system, and I appreciate their commitment and willingness to serve.”
The 18-member Tennessee Board of Regents is the governing body of the Board of Regents system, which includes Tennessee’s Technology Centers, Community Colleges and four-year public universities unaffiliated with the University of Tennessee. The board oversees the educational and operational activities of the statewide system. The governor serves as an ex officio voting member of the board and, by election, as chair.
The Tennessee Board of Regents approved on Friday the next step toward the University of Memphis’ acquisition of the Lambuth University campus in Jackson, reports The Commercial Appeal. On Thursday the Tennessee Higher Education Commission approved the feasibility study to take over the campus, a study that included $3.5 million for safety repairs and $15 million in longer-term maintenance.
Next week the executive subcommittee of the state building commission is expected to vote on allowing U of M to lease the campus for $1 a year while Lambuth is in bankruptcy, said Monica Greppin, director of communications for the board of regents.
Once out of bankruptcy, plans are also in play for the school’s purchase, Greppin said.
“There is a stakeholder committee that has worked out an agreement to purchase the campus from Lambuth,” she said. “Once the stakeholders acquire the campus they’ll transfer ownership to the board of regents.”
JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) — The Lambuth University Board of Trustees voted Thursday to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The 168-year-old United Methodist campus officially closed after years of financial difficulties and the loss of its academic accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Board Chairman Mike Keeney said in a news release that the school has been trying to sell its assets to settle its debts. But with debts remaining and time running out, the board decided to ask for an expedited bankruptcy plan.
The trustees also voted to accept a proposal from a group of stakeholders to sell the campus for $7.9 million. However, there is not yet a signed letter of agreement, so the purchase is still tentative.
By Lucas Johnson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A search will begin early next year for a permanent president for Tennessee State University, state Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan said Friday.
Morgan spoke to reporters following the board’s quarterly meeting at Nashville State Community College.
About 20 protesters opposed to academic changes to the university rallied outside the community college, with some holding signs reading “Save TSU,” and “Start Search for Permanent President of TSU Now.” Some protesters were also outside the college the day before, according to The Tennessean.
Tennessee State Interim President Portia Holmes Shields has been reorganizing academic departments and eliminating some degree programs that have only a few graduates in an effort to turn around the struggling historically black university.
Morgan said Shields is doing a good job and was brought in to put the university in a position to do a national search.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Board of Regents has approved tuition hikes of between 8 and 11 percent, with the actual increase for each student depending on how many credit hours that student is taking.
The Board also approved a 3 percent cost of living increase for employees at its six universities, 13 two-year colleges and 26 technology centers.
Board Chancellor John Morgan said at the Friday meeting that he doesn’t expect tuition hikes to be as much next year, and tuition will probably level off in subsequent years if state revenues continue to increase.
On Thursday, University of Tennessee system trustees approved a 12 percent hike in tuition at the flagship campus in Knoxville and 10 percent increases at the Martin and Chattanooga campuses.