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Summerville Pushing Tuition Freeze, Claims “Total Authority” Over Public Colleges

State Sen. Jim Summerville is still fuzzy on the details but he says he is concerned about the precipitous rate of tuition increases at Tennessee’s public colleges and universities and thinks some sort of tuition freeze is likely in order.

The Dickson Republican broached the idea in a press release earlier this week, calling recent yearly increases in tuition prices “an outrage.” Speaking to TNReport Tuesday, Summerville expressed concern that “Parents and young folks are being priced out of the [higher education] market.”

“Over the last 10 years, it’s been a 60 percent increase in student tuition,” Summerville continued. “No state agency gets that kind of an increase over a decade. So we need to get control over their spending and find out why this tuition is getting out of hand.”

But beyond the basic idea of freezing prices, Summerville was short on details, including how long such a freeze would last. He told TNReport he was seeking input from other lawmakers and experts before settling on a final proposal.

One group he said he hadn’t reached out to was state higher education officials, but acknowledging the likelihood of pushback from administrators, Summerville smiled, saying “I expect to hear from them.”

Regardless of any such pushback, Summerville maintained that financial restraint at state schools was in order and that the General Assembly should be the one to hold institutions responsible.

“We have total authority over higher education, we can tell them—we can bring them before the Government Operations Committees or the Education Committees and say ‘voters are not happy with this skyrocketing of costs for the universities,’” Summerville told TNReport. “Do you really need all those vice presidents? Do you need those high-paid sports coaches? Show us a plan for reducing expenses,” he said.

TN Higher Ed Leaders Join Call for Immigration Reform

Press release from Tennesseans for Immigration Reform; June 6, 2013:

NASHVILLE, TN – Twenty-one chancellors and presidents of Tennessee’s top higher education institutions have sent a joint letter to Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Bob Corker urging their swift action and support for comprehensive immigration reform.

The letter urges the senators to support a bipartisan solution that would ensure international students educated in American universities will have a clear path to contribute to the American economy and create jobs in the U.S. after they graduate.

“As leaders of the higher education institutions that are preparing the creators of tomorrow’s scientific breakthroughs, we call on you to address a critical threat to America’s preeminence as a global center of innovation and prosperity—our inability under current U.S. immigration policy to retain and benefit from many of the top minds educated at our universities.”

To help protect America’s lead in innovation and new job creation, the university leaders’ letter calls for swift action on the issue, stating “we simply cannot afford to wait any longer to fix our broken immigration system.”

“The important role immigrants play in American innovation must not be discounted or diminished; their contributions and inventions lead to new companies and new jobs for American workers, and are an enormous boon to our economy.”

Among those signing the letter are: Jimmy Cheek, Chancellor of The University of Tennessee in Knoxville; John Morgan, Chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents system; Nick Zeppos, Chancellor of Vanderbilt University; Shirley Raines, President of the University of Memphis; and Brian Noland, President of East Tennessee State University.

Other signatories include: Dr. Robert Fisher, Belmont University; Dr. John Smarrelli, Christian Brothers University; Dr. Harvill Eaton, Cumberland University; Dr. James Williams, Fisk University; Dr. Greg Jordan, King College; Dr. Gary Weedman, Johnson University; Dr. James Dawson, Lincoln Memorial University; Dr. Randy Lowry, Lipscomb University; Dr. Kenneth Schwab, Middle Tennessee School for Anesthesia; Dr. Bill Greer, Milligan College; Dr. Gordon Bietz, Southern Adventist University; Dr. Richard Phillips, Southern College of Optometry; Dr. Glenda Glover, Tennessee State University; Dr. Philip Oldham, Tennessee Tech University; Dr. Dan Boone, Trevecca Nazarene University; and Dr. Nancy Moody, Tusculum College.

A copy of the complete letter follows:

Tennesseans for Immigration Reform

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Senator Lamar Alexander
455 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Bob Corker
425 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Alexander and Senator Corker:

Thank you for your continued strong support of our colleges and universities here in Tennessee. We are grateful for your focus and leadership for expanded student access, achievement, completion and research success throughout our great state.

That’s why we are writing to seek your help and support on one of the most important national issues directly impacting our institutions—and Tennessee’s future economy—comprehensive immigration reform.

As you know, Tennessee has witnessed significant growth in the number of foreign-born contributors to our society. In fact, more than eight times as many Tennesseans today are foreign born than was the case 50 years ago. We continue to see a growing international presence throughout the Tennessee economy as well.

As leaders of the higher education institutions that are preparing the creators of tomorrow’s scientific breakthroughs, we call on you to address a critical threat to America’s preeminence as a global center of innovation and prosperity—our inability under current U.S. immigration policy to retain and benefit from many of the top minds educated at our universities.

The United States has historically been the world leader in innovation, invention and creation of ideas that drive economic prosperity. Research shows that in 2011, foreign-born inventors were credited contributors on more than 75 percent of patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities in the U.S.

It is in our universities, however, where we educate and train the next generation of researchers, innovators and leaders, and we are proud that the United States remains a top magnet for the world’s brightest and most driven students.

Across the U.S., in 2009, students on temporary visas represented 45 percent of all graduate students in engineering, math, computer science and physical sciences—earning 43 percent of all master’s degrees and 52 percent of all Ph.Ds.

The important role immigrants play in American innovation must not be discounted or diminished; their contributions and inventions lead to new companies and new jobs for American workers, and are an enormous boon to our economy.

However, after we have trained and educated these future job creators, our antiquated immigration laws too often turn them away to work for our competitors in other countries.

Limited numbers of visas force American-educated immigrants to leave the country or face untenable delays for a permanent visa. Top American-educated engineers from India and China face wait times of up to 9 years to get a permanent visa, and new applicants from these countries may face considerably longer waits.

Yet, while we turn away American-educated, trained and funded scientists and engineers, there is a growing skills gap across America’s industries. One quarter of U.S. science and engineering firms report difficulty in hiring, and the problem will only worsen as the U.S. is projected to face a shortfall of 230,000 qualified advanced-degree workers in scientific and technical fields by 2018.

While we are sending away highly skilled workers trained at American universities, competing economies are welcoming these scientists and engineers with streamlined visa applications and creating dedicated visas to ensure that the foreign students who graduate from their own universities can stay and contribute to the local economy.

We simply cannot afford to wait any longer to fix our broken immigration system.

We hope you will work together with your colleagues in the Senate on a comprehensive and bipartisan immigration reform solution that ensures our top international graduates have a clear path to stay here to help us create more American jobs and to ensure that America is the world’s leading home for innovators and innovation.

Thank you again for your outstanding leadership—and for your consideration on this important issue.

Sincerely,

Robert C. Fisher
President
Belmont University

John Smarrelli, Jr.
President
Christian Brothers University

Harvill C. Eaton
President
Cumberland University

Brian Noland
President
East Tennessee State University

H. James Williams
President
Fisk University

Gregory D. Jordan
President
King College

Gary E. Weedman
President
Johnson University

B. James Dawson
President
Lincoln Memorial University

Randy Lowry
President
Lipscomb University

Kenneth L. Schwab
President
Middle Tennessee School for Anesthesia

Bill Greer
President
Milligan College

Gordon Bietz
President
Southern Adventist University

Richard W. Phillips
President
Southern College of Optometry

John Morgan
Chancellor
Tennessee Board of Regents

Glenda B. Glover
President
Tennessee State University

Philip B. Oldham
President
Tennessee Tech University

Dan Boone
President
Trevecca Nazarene University

Nancy B. Moody
President
Tusculum College

Nicholas S. Zeppos
Chancellor
Vanderbilt University

Shirley C. Raines
President
University of Memphis

Jimmy G. Cheek
Chancellor
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Campfield Wrestles With Higher Ed Officials Over UT’s ‘Sex Week,’ Liberal Lecturers

Members of the state Senate Higher Education Subcommittee were at the Capitol for a hearing Thursday and Knoxville Republican Stacey Campfield seized the opportunity to spar with administrators from the state’s public university systems over how schools allocate student activities money.

Top on the agenda for Campfield, an outspoken social conservative who seems to never stray far from the limelight, was the so-called “Sex-Week” put on by student groups at the University of Tennessee Knoxville back in March.

The event, which included talks and events related to sexuality and reproductive health, was organized by student groups and initially received funding from the university’s student activities budget, but after Campfield and other conservative lawmakers cried foul, that money was pulled.

Still, the senator challenged representatives from the UT system and the Tennessee Board of Regents Thursday to explain their reasoning for initially approving what he characterized as “obscenity.”

Beyond the specifics of Sex Week, Campfield, who also sits on the state Senate’s full Education Committee, charged that the state’s public universities displayed a liberal bias in the speakers and events they funded on campus. Campfield read aloud a list of dozens of speakers that student groups had brought to UT campuses in the past three years, claiming that only one was conservative.

“I hate to say it but I’m not seeing much diversity there,” Campfield said. “I’m seeing a whole bunch of left. Except for maybe one person three years ago you had the former chairman of the RNC speak…that was the only one I could find who was clearly, I would say, right-leaning.”

“Looking at the facts of all the speakers, I’m saying there’s probably some content bias,” he continued.

Yet beyond the list of guest speakers, Campfield couldn’t offer evidence that schools discriminated against or denied funding to right-leaning student groups.

For their part, university officials maintained that their policies for allocating money aren’t based on the content or political leaning of groups or speakers.

University of Tennessee President Joe Dipietro told reporters after the hearing that student groups of all stripes are treated equally in the UT system.

“We have a process for them to be recognized as an registered organizations,”Dipietro said. ”We have a diverse population of people around our universities, both conservative and liberal.”

After spending close to an hour and a half on the issue, the subcommittee ended with a resolution to recommend that the full Senate Education Committee consider imposing policy changes during next year’s legislative session.

Haslam Higher Ed Initiative: Affordability, Access, Quality

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam; January 15, 2013: 

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that Randy Boyd will join his administration as special advisor to the governor for Higher Education to focus on affordability, access and quality of state programs.

Boyd will consult with a formal working group appointed by Haslam made up of the governor, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), and president of the University of Tennessee. Although Boyd’s position will be full-time, he will be working for the state on a voluntary, unpaid basis.

“Over the past six months, I’ve spent a lot of time learning from experts in our state and across the country about the challenges we face in higher education,” Haslam said. “Only 32 percent of our state’s adult population has a post-secondary degree, but if we are going to a have a workforce that’s job-ready, we need to be at 55 percent by 2025. The conversation needs to be about K to J with the ‘J’ meaning jobs.

“It is clear to me that unlike K-12 education where there is general consensus about how to improve education. That isn’t the case when it comes to tackling the ‘iron triangle’ of affordability, access and quality in post-secondary education. I am grateful that Randy has agreed to join our team to head up this crucial effort. He will bring a business, workforce alignment perspective and a demonstrated passion for improving access to higher education to this issue. I believe it says a lot about the importance of this issue to the future of our state when someone of Randy’s caliber is willing to come from the private sector and serve in this way.”

In 2009, Boyd helped start tnAchieves, a non-profit organization that has sent over 3,200 high school graduates to community college free of charge with mentors. Of those students, 68 percent are the first in their families to attend college, and more than 65 percent have family incomes below $50,000. The organization serves 26 counties providing universal college access to those high school graduates.

“I am passionate about improving educational opportunity for all our citizens,” Boyd said. “To achieve the governor’s mission, we will need to broaden the net and to provide greater access. I’m excited about this opportunity because Gov. Haslam is determined to make a material impact. I believe our state has a rare opportunity, and I am honored to be able to assist.”

Boyd, 53, is chairman of Radio Systems Corporation, which he started in 1991. Radio Systems is headquartered in Knoxville and has more than 600 associates worldwide with offices in seven countries. The company produces over 4,000 technology-based pet products under brand names such as Invisible Fence, PetSafe, SportDOG, and Premier. It is a private company with sales over $300 million.

Boyd received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee in industrial management in 1979 and a master’s in liberal studies from Oklahoma University in 1988.

Boyd also currently serves on the board of a number of organizations including the University of Tennessee College of Business Dean’s Advisory Council, the University of Tennessee Alumni Association, and Knox County’s Great Schools Partnership. He also established the PetSafe Chair of Companion Animal Behavior within the Small Animal Clinical Sciences department of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee.

He has received several awards including Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southeast in 2008, Tennessee Business Magazine’s CEO of the Year in 2009, UT’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009, and was inducted into Junior Achievement’s East Tennessee Hall of Fame in 2008.

He and his wife, Jenny, have two sons. Boyd begins his role in Nashville today, January 15.

Governor Ruminating on Education Reform, Round 3

Tennessee students are heading back to class this month, and education reform is likely to be increasingly back in the news heading into the November elections and beyond.

So far, few solid policy directions and details have emerged, but the governor said this week he and his advisers are wrestling with issues ranging from school choice to expanding taxpayer-funded pre-K to better preparing post-secondary students for the workforce.

Here’s where things stand at present:

Vouchers Not a ‘Done Deal’

A contingent of legislative Republicans — among them the Senate’s most powerful member,  Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey — have for some time asserted a commitment to expanding publicly funded choices available to parents who worry their children aren’t getting the highest-quality, individualized education they deserve through traditional government-run schools.

Their plan is to establish a system of “opportunity scholarships,” or vouchers, that will allow parents to put taxpayer resources toward the public, charter, private or parochial school of their choice. The Senate OK’d that plan in 2011 but it failed to gain similar momentum in the House.

But Haslam is still hesitant. He said that for the plan to come to legislative fruition a lot of complicated policy obstacles and political pitfalls will have to be negotiated. Last year the governor himself put the brakes on a school-voucher proposal, opting instead to appoint a task force to study the issue and report back in November.

The Tennessee-based free-market Beacon Center and a national group called the Friedman Foundation for Education Choice this spring released a poll they co-conducted suggesting that support for vouchers is solid in the Volunteer State. However, the governor told reporters this week he’ll need to be convinced a voucher system will result in more than just an “incremental difference” in the state’s education outcomes for him to put the weight of his administration behind it.

“I don’t think it’s a done deal,” he said of the voucher push. “That’s a political observation, not a personal observation.”

“In other words, whatever money is transferred with that child is enough to really provide the education but doesn’t wreck the existing school system. So getting that balance right I think will be the biggest challenge,” Haslam added.

The governor’s task force met Thursday and is expected to meet again Sept. 26.

Expanding Pre-K On Long To-Do List

Despite significant opposition from members of his own party, the governor has hinted he’d like to look into expanding the state’s pre-K program for low-income children.

But he’s not sure if that issue will make it into his legislative agenda come next year, he said.

“I’ve listed that as a possibility along with a whole gamut of other things that we should look at,” Haslam said.

“I still think its applicability is probably more in our low income high need areas. I don’t see a scenario where we’re going to have universal pre-K in Tennessee. Will we expand it or not? It’s in the list to be debated out among a lot of other worthy potentials,” he said.

Studies of Tennessee’s pre-K program show mixed results. A state-commissioned study released last year indicates the effects of Tennessee’s Pre-K program diminish by third grade. Vanderbilt University’s Peabody Research Institute is currently attempting to “study of the effectiveness” of Pre-K in Tennessee, and says students showed an average gain of 82 percent in early literacy and math skills.

Higher Education Front & Center

Haslam says he’s committed to finding ways to improve education systems in hopes of raising the quality of graduates it churns.

Whether that means through policy-tweaking efforts within the administration or new legislation, the governor said he’s as this stage unsure.

“I think the first thing it impacts is how we budget,” Haslam said. “Whether there will be other legislative proposals, I don’t know I have an answer to that yet.”

“At the end of the day the most important thing we do, I think, in government, is we allocate capital. We allocate where money goes. And we have to get that right if we want to be a great state,” he said.

He’s taken to the road on this issue, holding a series of seven roundtable discussions across the state and a summit in Nashville earlier this year to dive into the pitfalls of the state’s current system and what the needs are of local employers.

What appears to be coming out of the hearings is that the state needs to do a better job of linking state funding with programs in high-demand fields like welding, nursing and engineering, he said.

Haslam added that fiscal disciple is still a primary concern to his administration across the board in state government, including public education. Anytime there arises a possibility of making additional taxpayer-funding available to higher education, such discussions must be coupled with efforts to improve financial efficiencies, said the governor.

Republicans Favor State Keeping Unexpected Revenues

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says he’s standing by GOP leadership’s call to bank the $554 million in extra taxes the state collected from Tennesseans, despite calls from Democrats to give it back to voters or spend it.

Democrats, in the minority on Capitol Hill, argue the state should give the money back to taxpayers by further cutting the tax on groceries or stalling college tuition hikes.

“That’s not the way this needs to be used right now,” Ramsey, R-Blountville, told reporters Thursday. “We did not know for sure how much money we would have, and again, I think it’s good fiscal policy to keep that money in the bank until we figure it out.”

The millions of dollars represent revenues collected in excess of the state’s projections for the 2012 fiscal year which ended June 30.

Over-collecting taxes without giving some of it back is “simply irresponsible,” said House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, who failed to convince Republicans at the end of the session to use what he predicted to be $400 million in excess revenues to avoid cuts to higher education and further reduce the grocery tax.

Ramsey chided Democrats for wanting to count tax dollars before they were collected.

“I think we have changed the mindset of state government this year. We’re not going to do on predicted. We’re going to do on what we know,” he said.

Fitzhugh and other Democrats want the governor to call a special session to further reduce the tax on food, which lawmakers lowered from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent this year. They also want to freeze tuition, which the Tennessee Board of Regents and University of Tennessee Board have voted to hike by as much as 8 percent.

Haslam has said he’s not interested in a “knee-jerk special session.” His administration has maintained that the state is still uncertain how much it will actually have to dish out to absorb the costs of implementing federal health care overhauls, as they’re still deciding whether to expand TennCare under the law.

An expansion of TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor, will cost as much as $1.5 billion over five years, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Higher Education Leaders Discuss Costs, Job Market Demands

In a roomful of state education and business leaders that met at the Governor’s mansion this week, the discussion about higher education reform was nautical-themed.

Economists talked about Tennessee “treading water” while other states and countries zoom by with improving education. Gov. Bill Haslam referred to reforming higher education as an “everyone in the boat” process. One speaker said it would take “all hands on deck” to repair the gap between higher education and the workforce.

Tennessee’s higher education system, it would seem, is a sinking ship waiting to be saved.

According to the leaders gathered, the real question at hand is how to get post-secondary schools to crank out people ready for real-world jobs rather than the classroom. And also, how to get more people in those classrooms in the first place.

The problem is threefold, said Haslam. Jobs are scarce in Tennessee. Employers are increasingly demanding their employees be more skilled and better educated. And at the same time, the cost of post-secondary education is rising.

“The reality is that while costs continue to go up, we need more graduates—not less—in Tennessee, and those graduates need to be better prepared for the workforce than they are currently,” Haslam told reporters after hosting the higher education summit in Conservation Hall attached to the governor’s residence Tuesday.

This comes in the wake of hikes in tuition and fees at colleges across the state.

“We’re pricing a lot of middle class people, whose parents may be unemployed right now, out of the chance of going to college,” House Democratic Caucus Leader Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory, told reporters last week.

The risk, according to Haslam, is “that Tennessee doesn’t prepare the graduates that we need for the workforce and that all these businesses that we’re recruiting go somewhere else. It’s really that simple.”

On the flip side, he said, “If we give them the graduates and the workforce they need, I think they’re going to come here or stay here.”

Proposed solutions included better career advising, devising methods of measuring the outcome of higher education, and developing metrics for testing the quality of education that students get along the way.

The summit was inconclusive, introducing ideas about what to do but eliciting “no promises” from the governor, who will be holding roundtables with business leaders and college officials over the next six weeks to discuss what they want out of a trained workforce.

The governor invited members of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, and officers of the Tennessee Business Roundtable and Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

Also included on the invite were the speakers of the state House and Senate and the chairmen of the House and Senate finance and Education committees, positions all held by Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Representative Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, who was not present, said the governor’s selection process left Democrats out: “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. … House Democrats stand ready to have a serious discussion about higher education.”

Haslam defended his choice, saying “there’ll be plenty of time for legislative input. This wasn’t about that. This was about calling the three boards together.”

The governor said he doesn’t know if he’ll approach the General Assembly with a higher education package next spring or if his first wave of changes can be made administratively.

“My sense is that a lot more of this will be internal to the schools and the systems than it will be legislative. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if we ended up with one or two structural issues that we bring to the (legislature),” he said.

As for reforming how the universities are governed, Tennessee isn’t ready for a complete overhaul, he said.

“I don’t think we’re ready to go there yet. I think governance is part of it, but I want to emphasize I don’t think that’s the root of the issue. The root of the issue is more around cost and access and quality, and governance structure is a piece of that,” Haslam said.

 

Fitzhugh Disappointed in Partisan Tone of Haslam Higher Ed. Review

Statement from State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley; July 10, 2012

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.”

Haslam Convenes Summit of Higher Ed. Leaders to Review TN Schools

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; July 10, 2012:  

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today called together post-secondary education leaders from across the state along with statewide business organizations to discuss the importance of a comprehensive and coordinated focus on the issues of affordability, the quality of our Tennessee colleges, universities and technology centers, and how to do a better job of matching the skills state institutions are teaching with the needs of employers.

The meeting included members of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), University of Tennessee Board of Trustees and Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) along with leaders from the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA), Tennessee Business Roundtable, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry and legislative leadership from the House and Senate.

“Tennessee is leading the way in K-12 education reform on a national level, and we are committed to continuing that momentum,” Haslam said. “We’ve also made significant progress with post-secondary education, and the time is right to take that work to the next level.

“The status quo is not good enough for our students. We need to examine the financial structure, the quality of the programs at our state institutions, and whether we are keeping up with the dynamic training needs of employers who want to put Tennesseans to work. It is going to take all of us working together to tackle these issues, and with the good work already happening in post-secondary education, we have a solid foundation to build on.”

The meeting included perspectives on the importance of post-secondary education, meeting the intellectual capital needs of the Tennessee economy and financing higher education. Presenters included:

  • Bill Tucker, deputy director of policy development with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation;
  • Nicole Smith, research professor and senior economist at the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce;
  • and Bill Zumeta, co-author of Financing Higher Education in the Era of Globalization.

Later this month, the governor will begin a series of candid conversations across the state with businesses and post-secondary institutions to learn about collaborations that are working in communities and areas where we need to improve matching the skills our students are learning with the needs of employers.

As chairman of the Southern Growth Policies Board, Haslam held a regional meeting in Chattanooga in late June to focus on workforce preparation issues that highlighted Tennessee companies from across the state.

“If we are going to be a state that attracts companies to locate and grow here; a state that keeps its best and brightest graduates here with good-paying, high-quality jobs, there is nothing more important we can do than to focus on education,” Haslam said. “There is a lot of consensus around K-12 education reform efforts, and I think we have the opportunity to become a national model in approaching post-secondary education as well.”

The governor serves as chairman of the board of directors for the TBR and UT systems.

Governor Hosting Higher Ed Policy Meeting

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; July 9, 2012:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will bring together post-secondary education officials and statewide business leaders on Tuesday to discuss the importance of a comprehensive and coordinated focus on the issues of affordability, the quality of our Tennessee colleges, universities and technology centers, and how to do a better job of matching the skills state institutions are teaching with the needs of employers.

The meeting will feature presentations by three leading post-secondary education policy experts, and the governor will moderate discussions after each presentation.

The presenters are Nicole Smith, research professor and senior economist at the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce; Bill Tucker, deputy director of Policy Development for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and Bill Zumeta, professor with the University of Washington and co-author of Financing Higher Education in the Era of Globalization.