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State of the State Address of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam
“Why Tennessee is Different”
January 28, 2013
…With repeated tuition increases year after year, we risk pricing middle class families out of the market for a college education. We must address cost. We have to make a college education more accessible, and we have to make sure that we have quality programs in Tennessee. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year learning all I can about these issues - on a national level and what’s happening here in Tennessee. These aren’t challenges that we’re going to solve overnight.
But like in K-12 education, Tennessee is getting attention on a national level for our efforts in higher ed. Last fall, Time Magazine highlighted our Complete College program as a model for other states. In the past, the state has provided funding for our colleges and universities based on enrollment. Today, we base funding on the number of students who are actually graduating. This shift puts the focus where it should be – on graduates. And because we’re seeing results, this year’s budget fully funds, for the first time, the Complete College Act outcomes formula.
The leaders of the Tennessee Board of Regents and UT system have pledged that because of this funding, they will limit tuition increases to no more than 6 percent at four-year schools and no more than 3 percent at two-year schools. That will provide relief to Tennessee families that have faced double digit tuition increases for too long.
But even with this progress, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. Only 32 percent of Tennesseans have earned an associates’ degree or higher. That’s not good enough. Our goal is to move the needle so that Tennessee is on track to raise that number to 55 percent by 2025.
Tonight we begin our “drive to 55” – a strategic initiative to have the best trained workforce in America. To do that, we must improve affordability and access in higher education. To help us achieve this goal, we’re partnering with Western Governors University to establish “WGU Tennessee.” It is an online, competency-based university that is geared to the 800,000 adult Tennesseans that have some college credit but didn’t graduate with an associate or four-year degree. The program is unique because of its competency-based curriculum but also because of an emphasis on mentors who guide those adults through the academic process.
On the affordability front, we are proposing to establish an endowment of $35 million using operational reserve funds from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC). It is designed to provide nearly $2 million each year to support scholarships for “last dollar” scholarship programs such as tnAchieves. These scholarships fill the gaps between students’ financial aid and the real costs of college including books, supplies, room and board.
Last summer, I traveled the state visiting with employers and educators about ways we can do a better job of matching the skills we’re teaching our students with the real-life skills that employers are looking for to fill jobs. Out of those conversations, one thing I heard consistently is that our technology centers are having a lot of success. They’re graduating nearly 79 percent of their students, and close to 80 percent are getting jobs, and there are jobs available for the specific skills they’re preparing their students for in communities across the state. Their challenges are with capacity and equipment. To help them train more people to fill demand of Tennessee employers, $16.5 million are in the budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at our technology centers and community colleges…
…So by now it should be clear that education will continue to be on the front burner and that this administration is committed to public education. The reason is simple; to be the number one state in the Southeast for high quality jobs, we have to have a well-educated workforce to attract and fill those jobs. We want our state to be the place where our best and brightest want to earn their degrees and ultimately work, live and raise a family.
Since January 2011, nearly 80,000 new jobs have been created in Tennessee, and the
unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since October 2008. Tennessee ranks first in the Southeast in new manufacturing jobs created and first in the growth of manufacturing jobs in 2012. That’s good news, but it doesn’t mean we can take our foot off of the gas…
Let’s remember what makes Tennessee so special. It’s our responsibility to the citizens of this state to get it right, and this is our opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. That truly is service in the best meaning of the word.
Thank you and thanks for caring enough to give of yourself for a better Tennessee.
Retrieved January 30, 2013 from http://tn.gov/stateofthestate/files/2013/01-28-13%20State%20of%20the%20State%20Address%20-%20FINAL.pdf.