(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), July 22, 2013 — State Senator Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) has announced plans to file legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly to freeze tuition at the current rates at state colleges and universities. The announcement comes after the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) and the University of Tennessee (UT) system recently adopted hikes in tuition ranging between 3 to 6 percent.
“The current increases are an outrage, especially in light of this year’s increase in appropriations to these higher education systems,” said Senator Summerville. “No other governmental department consistently raises their costs to the taxpayers at such a high rate on an annual basis.”
The General Assembly approved a budget providing a $108.6 million increase for higher education, including $65.7 million in additional funds for the Tennessee Board of Regents, $37.6 million for the University of Tennessee system and $5.2 million for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. A 2010-2011 study by the Bloomberg News College Board found that 56 percent of public four-year college students average $23,800 in student loans upon graduation.
“Over the past decade, tuition at public colleges and universities has increased by an astounding 62 percent,” added Summerville. “These ever-increasing costs lead students to take out more loans, thus saddling themselves with debt that can take almost a lifetime to pay back.”
Summerville said his legislation, the “Tennessee College Students’ Tuition Relief Act,” is currently in the drafting stage but will freeze tuition for several years. He said bill will include cost reduction recommendations to help the state’s higher education system realize efficiencies. This could include top-heavy administrative office expenses and excessive salary packages for college coaches.
“Non-instructional cost is a good place to start in looking for savings,” added Summerville. “If we are going to meet our goals of raising our college graduation rates, we must get a handle on the rising costs. This legislation is a big step in the right direction to accomplish this.”
An inquiry into contract outsourcing for the management of the state’s motor pool to Enterprise Rent-A-Car has left one state representative with more questions than answers.
And those answers may not come for another month Mark Pody, who sits on the legislature’s Joint Fiscal Review Committee, told TNReport.com.
Rep. Pody had said on Monday that he’d been told by state Department of General Services staff to expect more specific answers Tuesday. However, that didn’t happen, he said.
“I believe they’re giving me general information where I want more specific information, and I want to see where it’s documented and backed up,” said the Republican from Lebanon.
“Everything has been postponed until they come up in Fiscal Review to review the contracts next month,” Pody told TNReport.com Tuesday afternoon.
Fiscal Review is one of a handful of General Assembly committees that meet year-round. The committee convenes on the second Monday of each month. The next meeting will be July 8.
“I’m not comfortable with the stuff they’ve given me already,” said Pody, who is in his second term. “I’ve got to make them tell me why they believe it’s one way and the contract clearly says its something different.”
“We want transparency in government that we know that our taxpayer dollar is being spent wisely, openly and everybody can follow through,” he told TNReport.com, something he doesn’t feel is happening with the Enterprise contract.
“I just see what’s in the contract and what’s being done is two separate entities. I’m not getting the answers that I’m looking for yet.”
Since Gov. Bill Haslam was elected to office in 2010, General Services Commissioner Steve Cates, a Brentwood developer, has overseen the transfer of certain state jobs and services to private companies,
Among these transfers was the state motor pool in 2011 when the Department of General Services decided to outsource the program to Enterprise and its car-sharing program called WeCar.
Around the same time, former Enterprise executive Kathleen Hansen was hired by Cates to head the department’s motor vehicle management division
According to a General Services’ internal memo, the state contract was not put out for bid for three reasons. First, the General Services memo seeking approval stated that “there is insufficient time to create the Request for Information, hold a pre-bid, create an Event, solicit bids, evaluate bids and award a contract by Jan. 1, 2012.”
Second, the memo stated that, “The rental of cars has not been solicited by the Purchasing Division in the past; therefore it does not have experience in developing the specifications.”
Lastly, the memo stated the state would it “piggy-back” on the “University of Tennessee’s WeCar” program, which was put out for public bid.
However, a statement submitted to NewsChannel 5 Investigates reads: “The University of Tennessee does not have a WeCar program,” but instead has a rental discount program with Enterprise for university employees and alumni only.
The UT motor pool has not been outsourced.
This statement, as well as the fact that the state’s contract calls for a fleet of 80 vehicles, but as of Tuesday only had 56 cars in it, causes Pody grave concern.
“The contract clearly calls for a minimum of 80 cars, and that’s what the state’s suppose to be paying for on a monthly basis,” Pody told TNReport.com Tuesday. “As of today, there’s only 56, and I cannot find any documentation where Enterprise or anybody else has agreed that we only pay for 56.
“There’s no paper trail to verify it. There’s just not. I don’t want us to get a bill at some point when this contract ends that says, ‘You’ve been paying now for $6 and the difference is some 20 cars.”
Additionally, Pody said while the “contract specifically calls for hourly rates in three separate spots,” General Services tells him there is no hourly rate. Instead, the state pays the daily rate of $31.33 and a weekly rate of $184.85, $26.60 more than the state of Oklahoma’s rate of $158.35.
Pody said he intends to ask his questions at the next Fiscal Review Committee meeting so he can go on record as having asked them in a public meeting.
Specifically, he wants to see the paper trail regarding the reduction of the fleet size, as well as written documentation explaining how much this has saved the state versus operating its own motor pool. He also wants a detailed explanation regarding the discrepancies between the UT statement and that of General Services regarding the “piggy-back” of the university’s contract.
Pody said he hopes to have some answers next week, well before the next Fiscal Review Committee meeting.
“It’s just me. I’ve got a month to finish getting my stuff together before they come before Fiscal Review,” he said.
Remember the Titans coach Herman Boone will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Black Issues Conference on February 2.
“We Are America: Divided We Fall. Together We Stand” is the theme of the conference, which will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Carolyn P. Brown University Center. The event is free and open to students, faculty, staff, and members of the community.
Black Issues Conference is held to raise awareness of issues affecting the African-American community, explain how they impact others and brainstorm with students to come up with solutions.
The event will consist of three workshop sessions and a luncheon where Boone will deliver the keynote address. The day will conclude with a 3:00 p.m. reception where Boone will be available for pictures and autographs.
To attend, register online by January 25.
In 1971, Boone was appointed as the head football coach at TC Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. His challenge was to unite black and white players in a recently integrated school and mold them into the Titans football team.
Boone and his white assistant coach, Bill Yoast, clashed at first, but were able to put aside their prejudices to whip their team into shape. They compiled a 13-0 record and went on to win the state championship.
Now retired, Boone travels the country talking about respect, teamwork, community involvement and the importance of character. Boone will address the topics of diversity and his own experience of becoming a Titan at this year’s event.
Shawnboda Mead, associate director of Multicultural Student Life, said the planning committee chose the conference slogan, “We Are America: Divided We Fall. Together We Stand,” to make the event more inclusive and welcoming of all members of the campus community.
For more information on the Black Issues Conference, contact the Office of Multicultural Student Life at 865-974-6861.
The Black Issues Conference is made possible through the efforts of the Black Issues Conference Planning Committee, UT Chapter of the NCAAP, Charlie Lemmons Endowment, Black Cultural Programming Committee, Office of Multicultural Student Life, Division of Student Life, UT Bookstore, Office of Equity and Diversity, Commission for Blacks, Student Government Association, and the UT Black Alumni Council.
Bestselling author, civil rights advocate, and associate professor of law at Ohio State University, Michelle Alexander, will speak at UT on January 22.
Alexander’s talk focuses on the topics addressed in her influential book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Free and open to the public, her talk will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Cox Auditorium in the Alumni Memorial Building.
Alexander argues in her book that the rights won by African-Americans in the American civil rights movement are being taken away via the War on Drugs and the decimation of communities of color.
Rights fought for in the civil rights movement, like the right to serve on a jury and the right to vote, can be legally taken away from anyone with a criminal record. Alexander’s lecture will explain how this affects African-Americans, especially those who have been incarcerated.
“Alexander takes pieces of things we’ve heard before and compiles them into a constellational argument … she connects all the previous arguments to answer why we see so many African-Americans incarcerated,” said Bertin Louis Jr., the event’s organizer and assistant professor of anthropology and Africana studies at UT.
“This is an important issue that we need to raise awareness about to create a more equitable American society,” Louis said. “You’re going to hear a premier intellectual speak, and she is going to make a very strong argument.”
The lecture is sponsored by UT’s Africana Studies program and co-sponsored by the Haines-Morris Endowment Fund, Ready for the World, UT College of Law, the Anthropology and Sociology departments, and the Center for the Study of Social Justice.
KNOXVILLE – Responding to the challenge from national and state leaders to increase and encourage more innovation, the University of Tennessee helped establish nine startup companies based on technology developed by UT faculty over the last fiscal year, more than doubling the total from a year ago.
The companies licensed technology from the University through the UT Research Foundation (UTRF), the not-for-profit organization responsible for commercializing and licensing technology discovered by faculty across the University of Tennessee System. Nine high-tech companies were created in the fiscal year ending June 30 while four were started in FY11.
From 1999 to 2011, UTRF spun out a total of 32 companies based on UT intellectual property, averaging two to four companies a year for the past five years. Of those companies, 15 are still in business and four companies were acquired. These 19 companies illustrate a favorable comparison to statistics from the Kauffman Foundation showing fewer than 50 percent of startups survive five years.
The increase is the result of more aggressive and ambitious goals set for UTRF.
“Part of the mission of the University of Tennessee is to help drive the economic development of our state. By bringing more technology to the marketplace, the University is answering the charge from Gov. Bill Haslam and President Obama to reward innovation and entrepreneurship while helping create new high-quality jobs in high-tech fields,” UT System President Joe DiPietro said.
“Six of the nine new companies are related to innovations in healthcare, and their products will further help our state by improving surgical procedures, prevention, rehabilitation and overall quality of life of our citizens,” said David Millhorn, UT executive vice president and vice president for research and economic development.
UTRF works with faculty in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin; the Health Science Center based in Memphis and the statewide Institute of Agriculture. UTRF helps faculty and the University protect inventions and navigate the process of transferring ideas to industry through licensing agreements. In the right situation and often after many years of research and development, UTRF may encourage a researcher to start a new company to commercialize the technology.
In addition to nine new startup licenses being executed, UTRF received 141 new invention disclosures in 2012, which is a record high, up from 87 in 2011. An invention disclosure is a confidential document that a university inventor submits to UTRF that provides a comprehensive description of an invention.
“Technology commercialization is very challenging, and it’s hard to predict what is going to stick, but the more things we can review and try, the better our results will be overall,” Millhorn said. “An increased number of inventions will result in an increased number of opportunities to commercialize.”
Among the companies spun out over the past 15 years, the most successful include Memphis-based GTx, a pharmaceutical company focused on developing small molecules that modulate the effects of estrogens and androgens. GTx, co-founded in 1997 by UTHSC professor of urology Mitch Steiner, employs more than 100 people in high-paying jobs and has raised more than $300 million in venture capital to fund its operations.
Knoxville-based NuSirt Sciences Inc., founded in 2007 by UT Knoxville Professor Emeritus of Nutrition Michael Zemel, sells products to reduce metabolic health risks. The company recently released a weight-loss supplement that is activated through physical exercise. NuSirt received early mentorship from Tech 2020, a Knoxville-based company that helps accelerate the development of high-growth companies. NuSirt currently has eight people on its payroll, but that number is expected to increase as new products are released.
The nine new business startups facilitated by UTRF in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012 are:
Entac Inc. – a Memphis firm developing a medical device to monitor and predict post-operative ileus after abdominal surgery.
Genera Energy Inc. – a Vonore firm specializing in integrated biomass supply chain solutions. Genera Energy Inc. was spun out of Genera Energy LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UTRF.
HandMinder Inc. – a Memphis startup developing a portable medical rehabilitation device to recover finger/hand function in stroke patients.
Infusense Inc. – a Memphis firm developing an automated platform for administration of the surgical anesthetic propofol.
Nanophthalmics Inc. – a Memphis firm focused on developing surgical tools that incorporate micro-fabricated materials to improve performance.
Raphael Biotech Inc. – a Memphis company developing new drugs in oncology.
SimCenter Enterprises Inc. – a Chattanooga-based company focused on computational modeling and engineering.
Skimtek Inc. – a Knoxville company creating sediment basin dewatering systems.
Solex – a Knoxville company looking to utilize peptide imaging agents to assist physicians in detecting amyloidosis.
“You could call it a tuition increase. But what it really is, is a tax increase,” said Jim Kyle, the leading Senate Democrat, at a Capitol Hill press conference. “It is a tax increase on people who are trying to improve their lives and improve Tennessee by getting a better education.”
UT trustees are expected to decide this week whether to go along with proposed tuition hikes of 8 percent at the Knoxville campus, 6 percent at Chattanooga and Martin, and 4 percent at the Health Science Center in Memphis. The Board of Regents, which oversees the rest of the state’s public colleges, is considering increases ranging from 3.4 percent at Austin Peay State University to 7.3 percent at East Tennessee State University.
Democrats say the state has the money to freeze tuition, a task they say would mean handing the higher education boards $78 million. They also want to further reduce the sales tax on groceries by another penny per $100 spent. The Legislature this year approved a reduction of .25 cents per $100.
The request — made in the middle of the campaign season — is a long shot. Republicans refused to budge when those same Democrats wanted to use some $200 million in excess tax revenue to pay for even deeper cuts in the food tax.
Instead, Republicans plugged almost $30 million of excess revenues into the state budget earlier this year, but vowed to stick the rest into state reserves.
“We want to be sure we have a complete picture of what our budget commitments will look like before we interrupt the budget process and start spending funds in an ad hoc way,” said Dave Smith, a Haslam spokesman. “That shouldn’t be done from a quick-fix perspective.”
The governor told the Chattanooga Times Free Press earlier this month he wants to turn his attention to finding a better way to fund higher education.
Tennessee higher education officials, sensing the wind in the back of the state’s education reform efforts, boldly made their request to Gov. Bill Haslam Tuesday for a budget increase of $28.7 million.
Haslam has asked all state agencies to submit a contingency plan for 5 percent reductions, and the state’s higher education schools complied with an outline that would trim $55.1 million from their books.
But leaders of the state’s public colleges and universities seized upon the initiatives from K-12 education and higher education like the Complete College Act as a means of persuasion with the governor. The $28.7 million request represents a 2.7 percent increase in funds.
“This is an interesting time,” Richard G. Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, told Haslam during a budget hearing. “We have a new way of looking at it.
“The state has higher education serving the needs of the state. We have a new master plan. We have a new funding formula that reinforces that master plan based on outcomes. We’re seeing positive movement.”
Rhoda said there are indicators of more students completing degrees, better retention rates and improvements in the amount of remedial and developmental courses that have been falling to higher education. But even as a higher ed official, Rhoda pointed to the significance of what the state is doing in K-12 as the foundation for improvements in higher education.
“The reforms in higher education are great, but the bigger context is how it fits the other reforms in K-12,” Rhoda said. “For us to succeed really is predicated on those improvements in K-12. Just suffice it to say we very much support those.”
Rhoda sat between Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan and University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro at the hearing at the Capitol in Nashville. All three seemed keenly aware of the daunting financial obstacles facing students and families in affording college. THEC approved its budget request last week, but it came along with proposed increases in tuition that would range from 3-10 percent depending on the schools in the state’s higher education system.
Morgan made a pitch similar to Rhoda’s.
“The combination of Race to the Top, the Complete College Act, the talk is right,” Morgan said.
“There’s a tremendous amount of energy out there and discussion going on and realization that it really is about the state’s future.”
The education officials knew they were preaching to the choir in Haslam, who has made the ties between education and job growth a major theme in his first year in office. But it didn’t make the governor’s job any easier in funding education requests. Haslam cut the budget for higher education in his first year in office by 2 percent, or $20 million.
But the three educators brought even more ammunition to the table. DiPietro pointed to efforts to operate more efficiently in universities. Morgan said the costs at schools actually haven’t gone up at the pace of what students are experiencing in paying tuition.
Rhoda broke down funding trends for Haslam. He told the governor that 10 years ago a university’s funding came roughly 60 percent from the state and 40 percent from the students, while community colleges received about 70 percent from the state at that time.
Now, the figures have been reversed, Rhoda said. The state provides about 36 percent while student tuition and fees cover 53 percent. Rhoda, like Morgan, said cost itself is not increasing for the schools. The change, he said, is in the mix of revenue, where students are having to pay more for their share.
Haslam told reporters after the hearing that he believes there will have to be some tuition increase but that he hopes to limit it. He said he didn’t anticipate being able to grant the colleges a $28.7 million increase but that he didn’t believe he would have to hold them to a 5 percent decrease either. Haslam also pointed to capital needs at colleges and universities.
Gov. Bill Haslam says he’s trying to be lean, not mean, in trimming state government, and he’s ready to ask the same of the state’s colleges and universities this week.
With tuition votes coming up in both the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees and the Tennessee Board of Regents systems, Haslam said Tuesday when he goes to those meetings he will be asking schools to make some tough choices in holding down costs. He knows that can be hard to do.
“In government, we’re basically bureaucratic organizations, so it’s easier to gain people and programs along the way,” Haslam said. “And I’m going to ask them (in higher education) to do the same things we’re doing in state government, to ask the hard questions: ‘Are we doing this the best and most inexpensive way as we can?'”
While the state remains committed to fully funding K-12 schools under the funding formula called BEP, other departments are having to hold the line and make cuts. Haslam is prepared to take that message to the state’s colleges and universities, as those schools are primed to hit students with another tuition hike
The University of Tennessee system is reportedly prepared to ask for up to a 12 percent increase in tuition while the Board of Regents is reportedly looking at an 8.8 percent to 11 percent hike, which Haslam has said is affecting middle-income families most, since lower-income families stand to make up the most, comparatively, through grants and scholarships.
Haslam says the state must not lose sight of its goal of graduating more students. He believes pricing students out of college would be exactly the wrong way to go.
“I won’t just totally point the finger at them,” Haslam said of the higher ed schools. “Part of the problem is ours in state government. We fund a lot smaller portion of their budgets as we did 30 years ago as more and more of our money has gone to those health care issues. So we have to figure out together how we’re going to address that situation.”
The governor said he would like to boost funding for higher ed, not cut it, although he trimmed 2 percent out of higher education in his budget this year.
“I think we have to figure that out, not just so tuition doesn’t keep going up, but we need to send more Tennessee students to college,” Haslam said. “That’s going to cost us money. We’re going to have to appropriate more money to higher education.”
Tuition votes are expected for the University of Tennessee schools on Thursday in Knoxville and for Board of Regents schools on Friday in Nashville. Haslam has hammered home the point about college and workforce development going in opposite directions. The state is making a concerted effort to produce more college graduates who can fill the kind of high-quality jobs the state wants to attract.
Lagging behind in college graduates does not attract jobs. Yet the price tag on college is working against the state in its pursuit of those jobs.
And it’s not as though the state schools don’t have competition inside Tennessee’s borders.
Gov. Bill Haslam wore an orange tie Friday, and his orange ties showed as he presented an award to University of Tennessee women’s basketball Coach Pat Summitt, inducting Summitt into the Tennessee Economic Council on Women‘s Hall of Fame.
The honor put Summitt in elite company as only the third inductee, following Jane Eskind, the first woman to win a statewide election in Tennessee, and Martha Craig “Cissy” Daughtrey, a senior judge on the U.S. 6th District Court of Appeals. Eskind was an activist for the Tennessee League of Women’s Voters and won a seat on the state Public Service Commission in 1980.
Summitt has won 1,037 games and eight NCAA championships as head coach of the Lady Vols.
Haslam said Summitt is a model for excelling.
“If Pat were a CEO, she would be a great one. If she were a school principal, her school would be the best one in the district. If she were a lawyer, she would be arguing before the Supreme Court,” he said.
“If she were running for governor, I wouldn’t be standing here.”
Haslam, former mayor of Knoxville, noted that every player who has finished at the program has graduated, that you never hear about a player for Summitt getting into trouble and that every player for Summitt talks about their playing career as being a formative experience in their lives.
“Would that all of college athletics were like that,” he said.
“It is an honor for me to play a role in recognizing Pat. There are a lot of great Tennesseans, but as governor I can’t think of anybody I am more proud of than Pat Summitt.”
Joan Cronan, women’s athletic director at the school, told a story of how the Lady Vols were playing in the Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville last season and didn’t play well in the first half of a game. At halftime, Cronan invited Haslam to go to the locker room with her. He said sure. Summitt was intense. Cronan and Haslam were standing against the wall in the back of the locker room. Summitt stopped and asked, “Governor, what do you have to say to these girls?”
According to Cronan, Haslam said, “Ladies, the economy is not real good in Nashville right now. There are 9,000 people in orange out there. Please play well.”
First Lady Crissy Haslam also attended the luncheon at the Airport Marriott in Nashville.
“The Haslam family has been so wonderful to all of us,” Summitt said before the event. “And to have the governor here today, and for him to take time out of his busy schedule and come to this event … but that’s the Haslam family.”
“Big Jim, he and Natalie, they have done such a great job with that family,” she said. “They’re all grounded. They all have focus. They all have purpose, and they all love the University of Tennessee.”
Summitt, who played at Cheatham County Central High School and UT-Martin, seemed overwhelmed at the prestige of the honor.
“I had no idea how big this event was going to be. It just touches your heart, when all those people from Ashland City, Cheatham County, show up and I’m looking around thinking, ‘I’m not believing this,'” Summitt said.
“No, I won’t be. I can say for certain I will not be involved at all,” Haslam said Wednesday in Murfreesboro, where he was holding a bill-signing ceremony. “That’s the UTK chancellor’s role, and I won’t be involved in picking the head of the new chemistry department at … wherever … either.”
Tennessee is seeking a replacement for Athletics Director Mike Hamilton, who announced his resignation this week.
The school’s athletics department is facing allegations of 12 violations of NCAA rules in its football and men’s basketball programs, and representatives of the school will face the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions on Saturday in Indianapolis.
Bill Haslam, a former mayor of Knoxville, was also asked if his father might play a role in the search for a new AD.
“I don’t think so,” the governor said. “I don’t know that, but I wouldn’t anticipate it.”