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News in higher education

A University of Tennessee employees union plans to try again this year to get a $1,200 across-the-board raise for higher education employees through the state Legislature.

The United Campus Workers argues that the measure is fairer for UT's lowest paid employees than Gov. Phil Bredesen's proposed 2 percent raise.
A University of Tennessee employees union plans to try again this year to get a $1,200 across-the-board raise for higher education employees through the state Legislature.

The United Campus Workers argues that the measure is fairer for UT's lowest paid employees than Gov. Phil Bredesen's proposed 2 percent raise.

"We feel like the principle (of last year's effort) stands," said UCW President Tom Smith. "We feel like it is the fairest way, currently, that raises should be done at the university, and we feel like it addresses one of the fundamental problems with pay on this campus.

“One of our members, she is 58 years old and makes $7.41 an hour working 40 hours a week. That is state-sponsored institutional poverty," he said.

More than 1,000 full-time UT Knoxville employees make less than $10.73 an hour, which is what the UT Faculty Senate contends is a living wage for a family of four based on a study it did last year.

Last year the flat-raise bill, co-sponsored by state Rep. Harry Tindell, D-Knoxville, and state Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, and others made it out of the education committee but didn't get to the floor for a vote. Instead, the Legislature passed a budget calling for a 3 percent raise for higher education employees. All UT employees, for the third straight year, got at least a $750 hike no matter how low their annual salary was. (Knoxville News-Sentinel, Feb. 27, 2006)

Walters State Community College nursing graduates continue to surpass state and national averages on the required licensure exam.

Almost 95 percent of the 118 members of the program's Class of 2005 passed the National Council Licensure Exam for registered nurses on the first try. Walters State's success rate bested the national average of 87.29 percent and the state average of 91.94 percent.

Walters State opened its nursing program in 1975, and the passing rate for its students consistently has exceeded the national average.

The program has been recognized by many national and regional organizations. In 2004, the college was named nursing Employer of the Year by the Tennessee Nurses Association. That year it was also co-recipient of the prestigious Tennessee Board of Regents Academic Excellence and Quality Award.

More than 2,800 nurses have graduated from Walters State's nursing program. (Sevier County News, Feb. 23, 2006)

A new degree program at Walters State Community College will make it easier for future teachers to transfer to other Tennessee Board of Regents colleges.

The Associate of Science in Teaching will be available beginning fall semester. It is designed specifically for students majoring in elementary education who plan to transfer to East Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Austin Peay State University, Tennessee Technological University or the University of Memphis.

Walters State has articulation agreements with many four-year universities that allow students to transfer seamlessly. This new degree enables students to transfer to even more universities. It is similar to the Associate of Science in Elementary Education, which will continue to be offered, according to Dr. Marilyn Bowers, professor of development education, reading, and head of the education department. (Morristown-Citizen Tribune, Feb. 22, 2006)

Middle Tennessee State University on Feb. 24 hosted the first “Tennessee Summit on Teaching Quality,” designed to explore ways to improve teaching quality and effectiveness for both K-12 and higher education.

The summit comes amid concerns for improving high school and college graduation rates, as well as teacher attrition in Tennessee.

Teaching is a much more complex profession than what has been recognized, according to Al Mance, executive director of the Teachers Education Association (TEA).

“In the past, we had a confined audience of women in teaching,” Mance said. “Now women have several other options such as engineering, law and medicine. We are in a period of time when money may play an important role in which profession a person chooses.”

Seventy to 80 percent of Tennessee's teaching force is composed of women, with MTSU leading the state in training a quarter of all the teachers in Tennessee. (Nashville City Paper, Feb. 24, 2006)

Recent bids exceeded estimates, but Northeast State Community College's president said he hopes design changes and in-house funding will allow work on a new humanities building to begin this summer.

"I thought they might come in somewhat high, because that's been the experience across the state, but they really came in over bid," Bill Locke said. "It (the low bid) was almost $2 million over budget."

Projected to cost $14.7 million, about $13.4 million of which was for construction, the humanities building has been the college's chief capital priority for several years, given Northeast State's need for classroom space.

After the bids were opened in January, the college president inquired with state officials about the possibility of additional funding. (Kingsport Times News, Feb. 23, 2006)