These are difficult financial times for public institutions of higher learning, not only in Tennessee, but in many other states across the nation. Tennessee, in particular, has experienced dramatic declines in state revenue over the past year; and these declines inevitably affect the state's universities, including Austin Peay. Our near-term future is still not clear.
Originally, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission anticipated reducing our state funding by as much as 20 percent, and it was uncertain to what extent Austin Peay would be able to increase tuition to offset this loss. Now, federal stimulus legislation seems to provide Tennessee with resources to shore up higher education funding, though the federal funding would only carry us through two years.
In the long term, Austin Peay and other state universities will almost certainly be called upon to produce more college graduates without a corresponding increase to our resources. Consequently, the present moment challenges us not simply to adjust to a temporary budget situation, but to re-calibrate ourselves for the future.
We certainly have no intention of letting our present circumstances destroy the positive momentum we have recently enjoyed. When seas get rough, one doesn't shut down the ship's engines. We will press forward together, exploring new ways of carrying out our work with a close eye to innovations going on about us among our academic peers.
I am convinced that Austin Peay is well poised to undertake this challenge. In the short time I've had the privilege of serving with you here, I've come to appreciate the dedication and resourcefulness of our faculty and staff. To paraphrase William Faulkner, I am confident that in spite of current financial difficulties, Austin Peay will not simply endure but will prevail.
Timothy L. Hall