Skip Navigation

News in higher education

4/11/2006
Two buildings on the Volunteer State Community College campus sustained significant damage following a tornado April 7.

The Caudill Building, where the theater is located, is expected to be offline for about a year, according to an e-mail message from Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Charles Manning. One-third of the Ramer Administration Building will be closed for about six months; the rest of the building will be open as soon as power is restored. Both buildings received temporary repairs over the weekend.

Manning, in the e-mail to TBR members, said the campus is closed this week. Vol State officials plan to resume classes Monday, April 17. The rest of the semester and commencement will remain on schedule.

Cost estimates of the repairs are being developed. A request for repair funds will be presented Thursday to the State Building Commission.

Photographs showing tornado damage on the campus can be seen on The Tennessean's Web site at www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage.

APSU President Dr. Sherry Hoppe said in an e-mail Monday to faculty and staff that the University offered assistance to Vol State, “but at this point we have not been asked to help. We will certainly respond if needed.”

(Editor's note: The following news item contains previously published information. It is unclear whether the recent tornado damage will hinder plans for Volunteer State Community College to open a Small Business Development Center.)
In the near future, small business owners in Sumner County may receive free counseling, training and support through a center on the campus of Volunteer State Community College.

The United Chambers of Sumner County and Forward Sumner Economic Council, in partnership with the community college, need to raise $50,000 by June 1. That amount of funding is the local match needed to receive an equal amount of federal funding to open the Small Business Development Center in January 2007.

Businesses which have less than 500 employees and less than $20 million in annual sales meet the Tennessee Small Business Development Center's definition of a small business. (The Dickson Herald, April 5, 2006)

Tennesseans continue to spend the lowest share of their income on public schools of any state in the country, according to a government report released April 3.

The U.S. Bureau of Census reported that state and local governments in Tennessee spent only 3.8 percent of the state's personal income on public elementary and secondary schools in the 2003-04 school year, the most recent year for which comparable data are available. Nationwide, state and local governments provided nearly 5.1 percent of personal income to public schools.

In the 2003-04 school year, the per-pupil spending of $6,933 in Tennessee was $2,727 less per pupil than the national average and $2,350 less than neighboring Georgia spent, on average, for each of its elementary and secondary school students.

“Tennessee has consistently been one of the lowest spending states for public education, and that makes me increasingly nervous," said Dr. Bill Fox, director of the Center for Economic and Business Research at the University of Tennessee. "Ultimately, the future economic strength of our state is going to depend upon the quality of our work force. If we don't invest as much in our future workers, it's hard to imagine in the long run that we will be able to compete effectively with other states that invest more."

State Comptroller John Morgan called education spending in Tennessee a crisis and vowed that "we have to do better."

"Our education system in Tennessee is not producing the results that are necessary if Tennessee is going to be competitive in the global economy," he said.

The Census Bureau report indicated that Tennessee did begin to close its historic gap with the rest of the nation, if only slightly, in the 2003-04 school year. Nationwide, the 2004 annual survey of local government finances found that per pupil spending rose 4.5 percent to $9,660. In Tennessee, per pupil spending in 2003-04 was up 5.1 percent over the previous year to $6,933.
Tennessee ranked 49th in state support for public schools and 30th in local government support in 2003-04, according to the Census Bureau.

“We as a state ought to be ashamed by these statistics,” said Jerry Winters, director of governmental relations for the Tennessee Education Association. “You don't solve all problems by throwing money at them. But we haven't stepped up to the plate to fund quality education in this state.” (Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 4, 2006)

Between 1994 and 2004, the median tuition at a four-year institution in Tennessee increased 71 percent. At the same time, state dollars per student went into a steady decline.

"For a number of years, we really haven't had any new state appropriation dollars," said Dr. Bob Adams, APSU alumnus and vice chancellor for business and finance at Tennessee Board of Regents. "That's how we end up with higher tuition."

With enrollment up by 9,500 full-time equivalent students across Tennessee and state appropriations stagnant, universities have no choice but to raise tuition costs to keep total university budgets stable, officials said.

"Historically, when budgets are being pinched by overall revenue problems, higher education tends to get reduced increases," said Joe Marks, director of Education Data Services at Southern Regional Education Board.

In Tennessee, budget problems have plagued the state for the past few years. With the state's budget funded by sales tax, available dollars are based on consumption. When consumption is down, as has been the case in Tennessee and across the nation in the past few years, sales tax revenue is down, leaving the state with fewer dollars to fund the same programs.

TBR is looking at recommending a 9 percent tuition increase across the state, based on inflation, utility cost increases, a 2 percent salary increase and no new state dollars.

Dr. Charles Manning, chancellor of TBR, said that one possibility for relief could come in the form of a one-time $28 million appropriation from the state. If that happens, the tuition could increase only 6.5 percent. The money, however, was not in Gov. Phil Bredesen's budget proposal.

"Overall, the probability is not very good," Manning said. "I believe our mission is to raise the education level of Tennessee," he said. "We try to teach additional students at a cost somewhat less that you can find in other states." (Daily Helmsman, March 29, 2006)

Applying for public college in Tennessee soon will involve just a few clicks of the mouse.

The state is developing a Web site that will be a one-stop shop for college admissions, educators said.

"It's an effort to make sure that everyone has all the information they need easily at their fingertips," said Dr. Roger Brown, chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "Particularly it helps with those families who have not had a lot of experience with college applications."

The site, which is being developed by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission in conjunction with the state's P-16 initiative, will feature applications for every public college in the state as well as for federal and state financial aid and help answer common questions in applying for college.

"This Web site helps to make a large and intimidating process much easier for the average student and the average family to navigate," said Dr. Brian Noland with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

He said the site isn't ready yet and declined to give the address for the new Web page. He said he expects the Web site to be ready later this spring.

Several other states, including West Virginia and North Carolina, have such Web sites, he said. (Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 6, 2006)

East Tennessee State University has surpassed Gov. Phil Bredesen's $7.5 million fundraising challenge for its College of Pharmacy, the governor announced recently, prompting him to declare the school ready for business.

“You rolled up your sleeves, and you worked together,” Bredesen told ETSU officials and pharmacy school supporters in a luncheon reception in Johnson City. “This pharmacy school is a go.”

Bredesen made the announcement at the ETSU James H. Quillen College of Medicine's Stanton-Gerber Hall, the same venue he used to endorse the university's pharmacy school bid a little more than a year earlier. (Johnson City Press, April 4, 2006)