higher education

Reaction to UT outsourcing rejection: Haslam still supports concept as TSEA applauds

Press release statements following the University of Tennessee decision rejecting participation in outsourcing of facilities management services as proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam:

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UT system campuses reject Haslam’s outsourcing plan

University of Tennessee administrators announced Tuesday that they will not be participating in a proposed facilities outsourcing plan pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam, reports the News Sentinel.

The announcements by UT Chattanooga, UT Knoxville, UT Martin and the UT Health Science Center end more than two years of speculation as to whether campuses in the UT system would participate in the plan and raise questions about whether other public campuses across the state will follow suit.

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport first announced today a decision not to participate in the proposed facilities outsourcing plan in a statement posted on a UT website.

Excerpt:

The goal of the proposed outsourcing plan was to improve efficiencies and determine what is in the best interest of our campus. We thank the state and the UT System administration for challenging us to engage in extensive cost analyses and an evaluation of our practices, which have led to cost-saving operational changes in keeping with the outsourcing goals.

My decision to opt out was based on the extensive analyses of the financial considerations, the complexity of the work done on our research-intensive campus, and our commitment to the East Tennessee economy and our workforce. It is for these reasons that I have decided outsourcing facilities management is not the best option for our campus.

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Former community college president’s ouster questioned, being reviewed by comptroller

Former Motlow State President Anthony “Tony” Kinkel is trying to restore his reputation four months after resigning from the position, reports the Murfreesboro Post, and the state comptroller is conducting a review of the proceedings that led to his ouster – including an audit that Kinkel says was unfair. But the Tennessee Board of Regents says it’s putting the matter in the past and looking ahead.

 “I’ve never seen anything like what happened here,” says Kinkel in a recent interview. “I just want my good name back.”

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Regents push hiring of 100 new ‘success coaches’

The state Board of Regents wants $7.1 million to hire 100 new student counselors – or “success coaches” — at Tennessee’s community colleges and technical centers, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

It’s the most expensive of four “priorities” for new money established at a board meeting next week, totaling $14.1 million. Those items are in addition to requests for new capital project spending – the top priority there being a $17.7 million technology building at Columbia State Community College’s Williamson County Campus.

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Third TN community college chief exits amid controversy

The president of Nashville State Community College is retiring effective Dec. 31, the middle of the school year following a lengthy tenure that was marked by impressive growth as well as flare-ups with some faculty, reports WPLN.

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TN cuts in higher ed funding less than national average

Tennessee state government funding to higher education has fallen by 13.9 percent on a per-student basis since 2008 — but that’s less than the average for all states of 16 percent. So reports the Washington -based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities after a review of statistics.

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After troubles at three community colleges, TBR chief plans better evaluations of campus presidents

The head of the state Board of Regents says she plans to change how the leaders of community colleges are evaluated, reports WPLN. This follows the recent resignation of two community college presidents under fire and harsh faculty criticism of a third. Tennessee has 13 community colleges.

In February, the faculty senate at Northeast State Community College passed a no-confidence vote in their president, who retired a few months later. Then, the president at Motlow State resigned after faculty accused him of creating a culture of distrust and fear. The president of Nashville State met similar accusations in a report obtained by the Tennessean.

The woman who oversees all 13 of Tennessee’s community college presidents is Flora Tydings, who was a college president herself until leaving for the position of TBR chancellor. She says any leader who’s not performing well brings down the whole system.

“Everybody needs to be held accountable for the job that they’re doing. My goal is to make sure that that’s happening,” she told WPLN. “I intend to be a little bit more involved with presidential evaluations and making sure that we’re staying on top of that.”

Historically, college presidents in Tennessee are evaluated every year. The most recent permanent chancellor of TBR, John Morgan, says he would review them mostly on their college’s academic performance, based on outcomes prioritized by the state, and on their fundraising.

This method doesn’t necessarily factor in things like interpersonal problems that stayed on the campus level, Morgan says. He suggests one way to address this: gathering input on the president from the community.

“I didn’t do that,” he says. “Could have. Probably should have, looking back on it.”

Tydings doesn’t have specifics yet on what her new review process will look like, although she has assigned an assistant to draft a proposal in the coming months. Her office says one possibility is to maintain annual reviews but add a more thorough evaluation every few years.

TN leads nation in students seeking federal aid for attending college (73% of high school grads)

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the state has set a new record and for the third year in a row has led the nation in the number of students filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Nearly three quarters of all Tennessee high school seniors—73.5 percent—filed the FAFSA for the 2017-18 academic year, a requirement for Tennessee students to be eligible for both federal and state aid, including Tennessee Promise and the HOPE Lottery Scholarship.

The FAFSA filing rate is important because it is a key indicator of the number of students planning to enroll in postsecondary education as the state pursues the Drive to 55, which aims to have 55 percent of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2025.

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Prosecutor waits for comptroller audit of alleged ETSU racquet allegations

An East Tennessee State University internal audit has found that Yaser Zaatini, who resigned as tennis coach in March,  was involved in $106,000 worth of misdeeds and may have committed the crimes of theft, forgery and misconduct. But Washington County District Attorney is waiting for an audit by the state comptroller’s office before presenting the matter to a grand jury, reports the Johnson City Press.

 In his letter to ETSU President Brian Noland, obtained through a Tennessee Open Records request filed after his resignation was announced, Zaatini wrote “In conjunction with my resignation, I waive all annual leave accruals and have executed the enclosed promissory note promising to pay the university $31,293.13 consistent therewith. 

“In connection with this resignation I make no admission of malfeasance.”

…ETSU Board of Trustees member David Golden, head of the body’s Audit Committee, said the hall of fame coach was engaged in a “fairly sophisticated” scheme to falsify student-athletes’ signatures on meal expenditure forms and print phony receipts for restringing tennis racquets to be reimbursed for the costs. 

Tracing suspect transactions as far back as 2010, the university’s audit team estimated $85,674.61 in questionable expenses related to meal expenses, racquet stringing, registration fees and other expenditures. Auditors also tallied $20,747.63 in unreported annual leave they called into question. 

Even with the ETSU internal audit, Clark said if there were any charges, the state comptroller’s office would be the prosecuting agency, so he wanted to wait for that report before proceeding to the grand jury.

…“We want to make sure we have everything there might be before we move forward,” he said.

TN independent college president backs away from Trump administration job

Claude Pressnell, president of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, has withdrawn from consideration for  the job of assistant secretary for postsecondary education in the U.S. Department of Education, according to Inside Higher Education.

It’s the second time in recent weeks that a candidate for a high-profile role at the department has said “no thanks” to the department deep in the vetting process. And it underscores the slow progress since January in making key political hires to round out Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s team.

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