Tag Archives: students

Plan for more out-of-state students prompts gubernatorial understanding, legislator concern

Some legislators have voiced misgivings about one aspect of the University of Tennessee’s new “business model” to boost revenue – pushing to lure more out-of-state students, who pay higher tuition. But Gov. Bill Haslam says he understands, reports the Commercial Appeal.

State Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, told DiPietro during a state budget hearing Monday he’s concerned the plan would displace Tennessee students. But DiPietro said the Chattanooga and Martin campuses have room for more students and the 25 percent figure is a ceiling, not a target or a goal.

“We’re talking about moderately increasing the number of out-of-state students. I don’t foresee a large change overnight. It would be a 2 to 3 percent increase per year,” he said.

At the same hearing, House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, called the plan “a wake-up call to all of us on the committee. If we don’t fund UT and the other schools, this is what happens. These are choices we’re going to have to make. These are choices we’re going to have to think about.”

Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan said his system is also examining increasing the mix of out of state students. “If we can attract students paying two or three times, it’s very much about generating revenue. We have the capacity” for additional enrollment, he said.

…Haslam told reporters Tuesday said he understands why UT and TBR are examining their “business models”: the state’s share of higher education’s funding has dropped from nearly 70 percent 20 years ago to about 30 percent. And as the state’s share has declined, tuition and fees have sharply increased.

“In the university’s defense, in the old days when we paid 70 percent of the costs and students paid 30 percent, there was a reason to be in the formula that it was in. Now with the switch — with us paying 30 percent and them paying 70 percent — I think they’re saying, ‘we have to make the economics work for us.’

“We obviously still want the University of Tennessee and all of our in-state schools to be predominantly Tennessee students. There is another upside to doing that: if students come here, there’s a better chance they’ll stay here,” the governor said.

DiPietro said nationally, about 40 to 45 percent of students who attend college out of state stay in that state after graduating.

Student lawsuit seeks to make college ID valid for voting in TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A group of Tennessee college students wants a federal court to require the state to accept their school identification cards as valid voter identification.

The out-of-state students attending Fisk University and Tennessee State University say in the lawsuit filed in Nashville on Wednesday they would like to vote in Tennessee but lack proper ID. Tennessee will not accept identification cards from other states nor will it accept student identification cards from Tennessee colleges and universities.

The students say the voter ID law is unconstitutional, violating the students’ right to vote and their right to equal protection. They note Tennessee does accept college and university identification cards issued by the state to workers, just not to students. And they say that obtaining a free Tennessee identification card that is accepted at the polls is a difficult and time-consuming procedure.

According to the lawsuit, student IDs from state schools were originally included as valid identification in the voter ID bill that became law in 2011, but they were taken out after lawmakers expressed concerns that student IDs were easy to duplicate.

The lawsuit claims that lawmakers did not offer any evidence that student ID cards are more vulnerable than any other accepted form of voter ID.

It also says that while lawmakers were making it more difficult for young people to vote, they were making it easier for older people to vote. Lawmakers dropped the age at which people could vote by an absentee ballot without demonstrating any special circumstances from 65 to 60.

The suit names Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins as defendants. A spokesman for the officials said they are unable to comment on pending litigation.

Last year, a report by the Government Accountability Office found states that had adopted strict voter ID laws saw steeper drops in election turnout than those that had not. Those drops were steepest among those aged 18-23.

After the report was released in October, Hargett dismissed it, claiming it used biased information from a “progressive data firm.”

Gov names a new UT student trustee

Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed a replacement student representative to the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees and, for the second time, he ignored the choice made by students in a campus election.

Further from the News Sentinel:

Jalen Blue replaces junior R.J. Duncan, who resigned less than six months into his two-year appointment. Blue, also a junior, attended his first UT Board of Trustees meeting in Memphis last week.

“Everyone on the board genuinely cares about students, and it is always great when you are working with people who are just as passionate as you,” Blue said in an email.

Blue has a major in public administration with a concentration in economics and is involved in a variety of organizations at UT, including Minority Enhancement for UT and Leadership Knoxville Scholars.

To select Blue, the governor received a list of three nominees from student leaders on the Knoxville campus. Grant Davis, a law student, received the most votes in an April campuswide election and was nominated this time, but wasn’t selected either time for the position.

Students vote with the understanding that the top three candidates are forwarded to the governor, so winning the election doesn’t guarantee an appointment, said Kelsey Keny, a UT senior and Student Government Association president.

“It’s Gov. Haslam’s selection,” she said.

Student quits UT trustee post; officials won’t say why

The University of Tennessee is refusing to release a letter from a student trustee who abruptly quit school and resigned from the governing board of the state’s flagship institution, reports the News Sentinel.

R.J. Duncan, of Nolensville, Tenn., resigned less than six months into a two-year appointment by Gov. Bill Haslam.

When asked, university officials would not say why he resigned or release his resignation letter, claiming the document was protected by federal privacy laws.

But Frank LeMonte, with the Student Press Law Center, said the document should be released and that such laws apply only to educational records.

“Anything that bears on his performance in trustee duties, by definition, is not a FERPA record,” said LeMonte, executive director of the First Amendment advocacy group in Washington, D.C. “There’s a completely legitimate public interest in knowing why someone is not continuing in an important public position.”

Duncan, a junior in finance and marketing, was one of three students nominated from the Knoxville campus to serve as a student trustee, an appointment that rotates among the system’s three undergraduate campuses and the Health Science Center in Memphis. Student trustees, like faculty representatives, have voting power only in the second year of their appointment.

Duncan was not the top vote-getter in a campuswide election in April, when 47 percent of students elected first-year law student Grant Davis. Haslam opted to instead appoint Duncan, an Eagle Scout who volunteers with the Boys and Girls Club.

When asked whether it was unusual to appoint a representative other than the one elected by students, Haslam’s spokesman, Dave Smith, said Duncan’s appointment was routine.

“Duncan was selected because of the three names sent to us by UT, he was the best fit for the position,” Smith said in an email.

Bredesen to UT Students: 50-cent Gas Tax Increase Not a Great Idea

University of Tennessee graduate students got some practical advice for their national energy policy ideas that might be politically unpopular from two former public figures who have governed in the real world, reports Georgiana Vines.
The occasion was Thursday when presentations by a policy studies class in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education were made to the center’s namesake, former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, acting the role of “president.”
Then walked in his friend and “vice president,” former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who’s also been a U.S. secretary of energy and a diplomat. Richardson was in Knoxville as a guest of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.
…On increasing the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, the students recommended a 50-cent increase as a “shock” price that would see consumption go down initially; then, as consumers got used to it and started purchasing gas again, another increase would be imposed.
Bredesen said the amount might not seem like much, but when people have limited income and also need transportation, it’s not an easy idea to sell.
“This is a very privileged group of people,” Bredesen said, speaking of the students. “When you present your ideas in the public sector, you’ve got to put yourself in the shoes of those who are not.”
Think of a single mom with a kid at home, he told them.
“She’s spending a dime and then some to stay afloat,” Bredesen said.

Senate Approves Bill on Student Psychologists Counseling & Religion

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Senate has approved legislation that would protect student counselors at public higher education institutions who withhold their services because of religious beliefs.
The measure passed Thursday 22-4. Republican Sen. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald sponsored the bill.
The legislation targets students in counseling, social work or psychology programs.
Hensley says he proposed the measure after a student at a Tennessee college was required to counsel someone who didn’t agree with the counselor’s “moral belief.”
The proposal protects a counselor from disenrollment, and it allows the client to be referred to another counselor.
Hedy Weinberg is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. She says the legislation is discriminatory and undermines the ability of universities to train counselors in line with the mandates of their future profession.

Meningitis Bill, a Year Earlier, Might Have Saved a Life

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chris Wilson believes his nephew would still be alive if his college had required him to get a meningitis vaccination.
Middle Tennessee State University freshman Jacob Nunley died last year less than 24 hours after contracting meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
“That’s the most difficult thing to deal with,” Wilson said, “the fact that the vaccination was there. All he had to do was get it.”
Currently, MTSU and most other public colleges and universities in Tennessee only recommend getting the vaccination to prevent the contagious disease.
Tennessee lawmakers are hoping to prevent deaths with legislation that would require incoming students at public higher education institutions to show proof they have gotten a meningitis shot. The bill would exempt students if a doctor says they can’t take the vaccine because of a medical condition or if the inoculation violates their religious beliefs.

Continue reading

Senate Approves Meningitis Vaccination Bill

Legislation requiring incoming students at the state’s colleges and universities to be have a vaccination for meningitis won unanimous approval of the Senate Monday night and now advances to the House, where approval is also expected.
The bill by Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, (SB93) is named in “the Jacob Nunley Act,” in honor of an 18-year-old Middle Tennessee State University student from Dyersburg who died of meningitis last year. It requires proof of vaccination to all students living on campus starting with incoming students next year, except for those who have a medical condition that make the vaccination dangerous or a religious belief that conflicts with vaccinations.
The House companion measure is expected to be approved by the House Education Committee today.

Haslam: Voucher Plan Won’t Hurt Low-Performing Schools’ Funding

Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday that his proposed school voucher system will apply only to “low-income students in our lowest performing schools” and the schools in question will get expanded funding to offset any losses.
“I’ve heard the argument that this kind of program will drain resources in the schools that need them the most, but we’re focusing resources on those schools,” Haslam said during his “state-of-the-state” speech.
The state has committed $38 million over a three-year period, starting last year, to 5 percent of schools ranked as having the lowest performance, the governor said, and his proposed budget adds $9 million to that.
“So we’re investing $47 million, over and above annual funding, to those schools to help them improve. Not only are we not draining resources from them, we’re giving them additional support,” he said.
“I expect this proposal to be hotly debated, but after taking a careful look at the issue and how a program might work in Tennessee, I believe in a limited approach that gives more choice to parents and students stuck in difficult situations makes a lot of sense.
“If we can help our lowest income students in our lowest-performing schools, why wouldn’t we?” Haslam said.
The governor did not give specific figures on the the voucher proposal – for example, the amount of a voucher toward a student’s tuition at a private school.

Note: The bill is filed as SB196, A promotional blurb on the measure, posted on the governor’s website, is HERE.

College Students Protest Photo ID Law

Camille Burge’s professors at Vanderbilt University can use their university ID to vote. But Burge, a graduate student here, can’t use hers, report The Tennessean.
“You can use your ID and I can’t?” Burge said. “I just don’t understand it.”
Burge and dozens of others gathered outside the Davidson County Election Commission on Saturday to rally in support of students’ rights to vote. Organized by Operation W.A.V.E. (Wake Up And Vote Early), those at the rally hoped to raise awareness about the state’s new voter ID law and encourage students to vote.
Of particular concern for students like Burge, is the law that doesn’t allow student IDs to be a valid form of identification while voting. Philippe Andal, student government president at Fisk University, said that the laws are purposely designed to suppress the votes of students, the poor, minorities and the elderly – all of whom may find it difficult to provide acceptable forms of ID.
“The new photo ID law is targeted directly at college students and other disenfranchised groups,” Andal said. “Everyone should care, because if one group is being disenfranchised, who’s to say their group isn’t next?”

Note: My understanding of the photo ID law is that the ID must be issued by state or federal government. Thus, a Vanderbilt ID for faculty be no more valid than a student ID.