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University of Tennessee-Chattanooga is scheduled to receive about $4.7 million for building renovations but no money for new construction from the state next year, university officials said.

That comes from the same budget proposal in which the Knoxville campus gets $10 million for a joint institute with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and UT-Martin gets $1.5 million for renovations to a fine arts building.
University of Tennessee-Chattanooga is scheduled to receive about $4.7 million for building renovations but no money for new construction from the state next year, university officials said.

That comes from the same budget proposal in which the Knoxville campus gets $10 million for a joint institute with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and UT-Martin gets $1.5 million for renovations to a fine arts building.

"While we're disappointed, we understand the limitations of finances in state government," said Dr. Richard Brown, vice chancellor for finance and operations at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The budget recommendations are part of $354.6 million in capital appropriations included in Gov. Phil Bredesen's proposed budget released a week ago today. About $62 million of that is from state coffers and the rest is from federal appropriations and state bonds. The final state budget must be approved by the Tennessee General Assembly, which is gearing up for the legislative session. (Chattanooga Times Free Press, Feb. 8, 2006)

Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, said she is planning to file a bill that would call for a statewide summit on education.

The summit would bring national, regional and state experts together to talk about Tennessee's education system from prekindergarten through college, she said.

"This should start a dialogue that will set this state on fire," Rep. Brown said. "We will go in and be able to address some of these issues."

Specifically, she expressed concern about graduation rates, both at high schools and colleges in the state. The summit would help close the "educational gap between Tennessee and the rest of the country," she said.

But Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said the state needs to focus on reforming the Basic Education Program formula that determines how much funding each public school system gets before worrying about a summit.

"I'm not concerned with anything until we get working on that and get the governor working on that," Rep. McCormick said.

Only 16 of every 100 ninth-graders will graduate from college in the state, according to officials at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. Of those students who do start college, only 45 percent graduate, officials said. (Chattanooga Times Free Press, Feb. 9, 2006)

More and more Tennessee students are taking the Advanced Placement test and scoring at higher levels of proficiency, according to the College Board's second annual Advanced Placement Report to the Nation.

Tennessee saw a 12.2 percent increase in the number of students participating in an Advanced Placement (AP) exam in 2005 compared to the year before. About 700 more students scored 3 or higher (out of 5 points) in 2005 than in 2004.

The College Board is a nonprofit organization that offers courses and tests including the SAT and AP. According to the report, the same is true of all 50 states and Washington, D.C. with New York leading the way for the highest percentage (23 percent) of high school students who achieved a score of 3 or higher.

While the number of students taking AP courses in math and science has increased, the AP computer science exam is the only exam that has seen a drop in the past few years. (Nashville City Paper, Feb. 8, 2006)

As President Bush toured the country recently promoting a new strategy for keeping the United States a world superpower in technology, the NASA Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) at Tennessee State University hoped to be included in the $5.9 billion “American Competitiveness Initiative.”

“If we don't create more engineers, our technology that has made this country the envy of the world is going to lag behind,” said Todd Gary, TSU's SEMAA program director.

In October 2003, TSU became one of 23 SEMAA sites, providing hands-on lab work in math and science to K-12 students on Saturdays during the school year and for one week during the summer. The site received initial funding valued at roughly $650,000 from NASA for start-up costs, equipment and operating expenses for three years.

That money will run out in October, but Gary said the SEMAA program is just what the country needs to meet new education goals. Each year, nearly 600 students have participated in TSU's program, which is free. SEMAA's yearly cost is about $200 per student. (Nashville City Paper, Feb. 10, 2006)

Tennessee State University has formed a search committee to fill three senior administrative positions. The positions are provost/executive vice president, vice president of university relations and development and vice president of student affairs.

The provost/executive vice president serves as the university's chief academic officer and oversees enrollment management, extended education and academic programs. The vice president of university relations and development will focus on fund raising, alumni relations and public relations. The vice president of student affairs will oversee student programs and activities as well as campus security.

Upon final recommendation from the search committee and approval by the president, the university expects to have the positions filled by July 1.

"This is in line with in initial goals, which included communicating our transition strategies, assembling a senior leadership team and establishing systems for strengthening academic programs at TSU," said Melvin Johnson, university president, in a release.

Johnson began his tenure as president last summer, replacing James Hefner, who retired after 14 years. (Nashville Business Journal, Feb. 8, 2006)

University of Tennessee administrators say the flagship university didn't fare badly under Gov. Phil Bredesen's proposed budget considering the circumstances.

The state lost $663.5 million in federal funding this year, and the governor's proposed $25.6 billion spending plan is down about 2.6 percent next year.

But spending on the 42,000-student, five-campus UT system would be up slightly — from $441.1 million this year to $445.4 million next year. And the governor has added several multimillion-dollar capital projects, including $10 million for a Joint Institute in Advanced Materials in Knoxville, $23 million to renovate UT-Knoxville's landmark Ayers Hall and $4.9 million for new biotech greenhouses.

Still, the budget includes no money for a mandated two percent pay raise for college employees, leaving administrators looking for ways to scrimp, save and raise tuition.

"Maybe a flat budget shouldn't be viewed negatively if the (state's overall) budget is down," UT President John Petersen said.

Petersen said he was pleased that Bredesen is continuing to fund UT's partnerships with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which UT believes will spin off technology and companies spurring economic growth. The governor would spend $4 million to hire high-profile scientists for joint appointments to UT and ORNL. (Knoxville News-Sentinel, Feb. 10, 2006)