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TBR debates proposals to cut costs and operate within tight state budget

October 29, 2001

Members of the Tennessee Board of Regents met with college and university presidents last week to hear proposals from six designated task forces on cutting costs, reducing inefficiency and living within its means.

The process was mandated by the General Assembly for both the TBR and UT systems.

Among the ideas discussed were abolishing existing remedial and developmental education and replacing them with lab and tutorial programs, implementing a core curriculum that guarantees course transfer from community colleges and technical institutes to bachelor's degree programs, requiring full and public disclosure of athletics expenses, and sharing of facilities, off-campus sites and faculty.

Among the most controversial ideas was capping enrollment, an idea endorsed by some THEC leaders in August as one that would draw the attention of the public and the General Assembly to the underfunding of the state's colleges and universities.

A second idea, shifting some enrollment from universities to community colleges, was equally controversial.

State Finance Commissioner Warren Neel opened the summit with a challenge to the TBR to rethink its focus on growth and scrutinize its funding formula, referring to the systems "payment by the student" method. He also recommended that the board consider consolidating programs and services (such as payroll) and admonished them to keep administrators' pay in check.

He called for "unconventional proposals for these unconventional times."

The Board will review the proposals and counterproposals as it prepares a report for the General Assembly in December.

In a regular meeting held the day after the two-day summit, the regents voted to review its policy on hiring consultants. The move was in response to criticism from Regent Keith McCord of Knoxville, who said he was "disturbed" to see a $200,000 contract for editorial assistance in public relations and marketing, an expense undertaking by the TBR its Regents Online Degree Program, and a $394,000 study of TSU's admissions, financial aid and records operations.

The board also approved a $211.7 million budget request for facilities construction, renovation and maintenance for the 2002-03 fiscal year.