Legislature ties higher-ed funding to graduation rates

Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 12:17pm

The Tennessee House and Senate adopted Gov. Phil Bredesen’s higher education reform package Thursday to tie state funding to graduation rates at universities and colleges.

Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle called it “taking higher education to a higher place.”

“Having a high school diploma no longer credentials you to be in this world economy,” said Kyle, the bill’s sponsor. “The chances of winning the lottery are about the same of being successful if you don’t have that [college] degree, and we owe this to our citizens.”

The Senate vote was unanimous, and only two lawmakers voted no in the House. Passage of the legislation was the last business of the special session called by the governor to enact education reform. Last week, the legislature voted to change state law to mandate the use of student test scores in evaluations of K-12 teachers and principals. That change bolstered the state’s application for more than $500 million in federal money in President Obama’s "Race to the Top" competition.

State higher education money has been divvied up based on enrollment. But only 44 percent of students at four-year state schools and 12 percent at community colleges finish with degrees. The governor’s legislation authorizes the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to change the way the state pays for higher education by sending more money to schools with improving graduation rates.

The bill also tries to strengthen the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s relationship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory by adding $6 million to the school’s research programs in science, technology, engineering and math.

It also moves all remedial courses from four-year schools to community colleges and automatically allows students with an associate's degree to transfer as a junior to any four-year school except the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

3 Comments on this post:

By: kennyj on 1/22/10 at 1:09

Why is UT-Knoxville exempt. Makes no sense. I could understand Vandy as it is a private institution. Of course, TN has been decades behind other parts of the Nation in allowing community college credits to transfer and those holding a CC degree to enroll as juniors in a 4-yr college. I wouldn't expect them to get it right.

Oh, well, education in general here is decades behind the rest of the Nation, but we have money to spend on things such as Bredesen's Bunker and the Conference Center.

By: Sumsrent on 1/27/10 at 6:37

I'd like to know why we're always sending money to the colleges?

We were duped into voting the Lotto in for education whereas all the profits went to college scholarships.

Now Bredesen is proposing cutting another 11.6 million from the school system and sending another 6 million to colleges.

Is there something wrong here? Why are our local community elementary/highschools always required to cut back while colleges across the state are building huge fancy expansions since the Lotto went into effect?

If keeping kids first is one of the mottos of this state, then shouldn't we be putting all the Lotto profits into the schools and not the colleges?

By: Sumsrent on 1/27/10 at 6:44

Proper education begins at the elementary level!

The Lotto funds should be going there first, not the colleges!

Seems as if the Skull and Bones buddies are lining their pockets with the Lotto funds while the basic school system is required to cut back again and again.

We should be screaming out to our government officials for robbing our children of their first levels of education! This is where education starts!