KNOXVILLE — Increasing the number of University of Tennessee students who stay in school and continue to graduation is a top priority throughout the UT System, UT Interim President Jan Simek said at the fall meeting of the Board of Trustees today.
Simek said he believes “through-put,” meaning encouraging students to continue progressing toward their degrees is an important element to the discussion of higher education throughout the state.
“The one thing we can all agree on is that it refocuses on productivity, the production of college graduates,” Simek said. “Graduation and retention rates — these are measures we need to focus on in the future.”
UT Knoville’s six-year undergraduate graduation rate at nearly 60 percent is the highest in the state among other public four-year colleges. UT Martin’s rate is 48.5 percent and UT Chattanooga’s rate is 39.6 percent.
Simek said each rate needs to be higher and that schools should be rewarded more for productivity.
The board last met in August for a workshop to discuss the relationship between the UT system and the campuses. Simek recapped those issues and the steps being taken thus far.
The campuses have asked for more autonomy in day-to-day decisions, more lead time on budget issues, more input on capital project planning and in purchasing. Simek said steps are being taken to address those issues or to transition functions.
The University also is working on identifying and developing potential leaders from within and is studying the possible relocation of the System offices from the UT Knoxville campus to another site in the city.
The board will not make a decision on tuition rates until next summer when it approves next year’s budget, but Simek said the University needs to think of new and creative ways to increase revenue in the face of shrinking state appropriations. He suggested the University look at the possibility of instituting differential tuition based on individual academic colleges, programs or departments.
Simek told the board he believes the University needs to plan for increasing faculty and staff salaries because he worries other universities will try to lure top professors and staff away from UT. It has been three years since across-the-board raises were given.
The board’s inaugural Trustee Lifetime Leadership of the University of Tennessee Award was presented to UT President Emeritus Ed Boling. A UT alum, he served as University president from 1970 to 1988, the longest term of any UT head. Dr. Boling, 87, did not attend the meeting but received the award at an alumni event last week.
The board honored Dr. Pat Wall with a resolution noting his long service to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, most recently serving as its interim chancellor. He is transitioning to a new role at UTHSC focusing more on fundraising and maintaining relationships with alumni as the University searches for a permanent chancellor.
In other business, the board:
- Approved commencement of the process to sell the UT president’s residence in Knoxville at 940 Cherokee Blvd., contingent upon approval of the buyer’s offer by the board’s Executive Committee or full board. The recommendation to sell the property is in line with the board’s decision in 2007 to provide housing allowances rather than housing for chancellors. The next step is for the State Building Commission to take up the issue of selling the house.
- Approved the University’s purchase of land for the proposed West Tennessee Solar Farm, subject to approval by the State Building Commission and to funding being provided by the state. The Solar Farm, part of Gov. Phil Bredesen’s Volunteer State Solar Initiative, is a 5-megawatt solar array that will be located in Haywood County on property that will be an educational site for students and the public to learn about renewable energy.
As described in the state of Tennessee’s application for energy funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development intends for the University and/or Genera Energy LLC, the wholly-owned, for-profit subsidiary of the UT Research Foundation, to manage the Solar Farm array, including all aspects of development, installation, connectivity, operations, and maintenance. Proceeds from power sales will be used to expand the array over time.
- Approved naming of the Civil, Environmental and Industrial Engineering Building at UT Knoxville in honor of John and Ann Tickle, whose gifts have had a profound impact on UT and the College of Engineering. The $23.1 million state-of-the-art facility will serve approximately 650 students and faculty members. A groundbreaking for the John Tickle Engineering Building will be held Dec. 1 and, once construction begins, is expected to take two years.
- Approved closure of the Memphis location of the UT Knoxville master’s of social work program as a response to a budget reduction for the College of Social Work. UT Knoxville is collaborating with the University of Memphis to ensure a master’s in social work will be offered in Memphis. The closure is effective May 2011, and all current students will be able to complete their degrees by that time.
- Approved revision of the UTC graduate admissions requirements to increase the minimum GPA from 2.50 to 2.70 for all undergraduate work. The new requirement will be implemented in Fall 2010.
- Approved amendments to the bylaws to change the titles of certain elected officers including changing Executive Vice President to Executive Vice President and Vice President for Research and Economic Development; Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary to General Counsel and Secretary; Vice President and Treasurer to Treasurer and Chief Investment Officer and Chancellor of The University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Vice President for Health Affairs to Chancellor of The University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
To view archived Webcasts from today’s Finance and Administration committee and full board meetings, go to http://www.tennessee.edu/.