November 19, 2001
When the Tennessee Board of Regents congregates at Austin Peay Dec. 6-7 for its quarterly board meeting, members will see the final version of "Defining Our Future," a proposal mandated by the Tennessee State Legislature in August and set for delivery to legislators Dec 10.
In addition to outlining ways to streamline missions and programs, maximize existing resources and improve performance, the proposal also lists the effects of existing budget reductions. Among them, ever-escalating student fees, buildings off-line with codes and inaccessible to the handicapped, and faculty leaving in droves for greener pastures in other states.
The TBR passed a 15-percent increase in student fees earlier this year to stem the departure of the state's "best and brightest" faculty members, says the report, but the increases (49 percent in the last five years) have "serious negative effects on students."
To meet the legislature's mandate to "streamline missions and programs," alternatives listed include consolidating or eliminating programs that are costly, duplicative or have few participants and increasing mission distinctiveness by channeling growth to community colleges and increasing university admission standards.
The proposal poses the establishment of a "lecturer" category of faculty members supplemented by numerous part-time instructors.
New programs would be approved only when a specific source of funding was identified, according to the proposal. Programs at Austin Peay that would be affected include the following: 1) Bachelor's degree in criminal justice 2) MBA 3) MPS (master's of professional studies) 4) Master of science in military history 5) Master of science in nursing
Alternatives for maximizing existing resources include creating a common schedule of registration and classes for all institutions and exploring system-wide contracts for purchasing and other services. Human resource reporting and approval would be decentralized.
In response to the mandate to "identify ways to improve performance in providing Tennessee with an educated population and workforce," the TBR proposes to phase out remedial-level courses at universities. To retain and graduate more students, the proposal suggests a reduction in the number of hours required for graduation to 120 credit hours for baccalaureate degrees.
The draft of the proposal will be discussed and finalized Nov. 27 and submitted to the Tennessee Legislature Dec. 10.