After studying higher education, Haslam still hasn't decided how to refine system

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 6:15pm

Gov. Bill Haslam spent the summer making it a priority to study the state’s higher education system, but he said he needs to do more homework before coming up with solid ways to reform or refine it.

The governor said so far he and his administration “haven’t decided what we’re going to do” to produce more students to fill the needs of the state’s businesses, increase graduation rates and keep down the cost of tuition.

“We’re still in the middle of a lot of information gathering and trying to come to a lot better decision about what ‘next’ looks like for us,” Haslam told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

For now, he said his office will likely pitch to the legislature next year some smaller tweaks such as making it easier to set up scholarship programs, but will avoid large-scale governance changes to the higher education system.

“We’re looking at everything from broadening the scholarship program we have now — Tennessee Achieves, which helps people go to community colleges free — to can we make better use of an online education program that might work for some people, to continuing what Tennessee started with the Complete College Act,” Haslam said.

Haslam said he “honestly doesn’t know yet” whether major changes would come to the higher education system during his first four-year term.

Leading House Democrat Craig Fitzhugh, who is flirting with the idea of running for governor, said he’s relieved the governor is taking this issue slowly.

“I would think that would be a good thing, that we don’t fool around with changing a bunch of hierarchies,” said Fitzhugh. “I think that’s wise not to sort of move the deck chairs around but concentrate on more substantive things.”

Both Fitzhugh and Haslam said they are concerned about the long-term increasing cost of higher education tuition — costs that are in part dependent on the state’s revenue and increasing costs in other programs like TennCare.

As next year’s legislative session approaches, Haslam said he is still on the fence on whether to lead the charge on instituting a school voucher program for students to attend private schools with taxpayer dollars. He said he’d decide after the first of the year whether his administration will pitch a bill to the legislature or if he will let the individual lawmakers take the lead.

4 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 12/18/12 at 10:03

The US Chamber has always been for outsoucing jobs, and now they want us to listen to the Nashville Chamber on educating our children. If they think Charter Schools is the answer, they need to do more research. I hope the school board does what is best for Nashville and the students and that is to hang on to tjhe puiclic schools they have a lot to offer.

By: joe41 on 12/19/12 at 9:25

C'mon Haslam, I hope that you are getting good input from a cross section of folks- I.e. not just UT folks We need a good university system in EACH of the states grand divisions so people can live at home and pursue their education. But don't dawdle too long in getting the conversation started.

By: pipecarver on 12/20/12 at 8:45

Classic stall tactic. There's ALWAYS a bigger plan; but it requires the passage of a bunch of little measures that fly under the radar. Once all of these are put into place, you'll see the proverbial "freight train a coming;" with all the close door sessions, and slam dunk, last minute voting, before they all run out the back door for their much needed vacations.

Tennessee Politics 101.

By: Moonglow1 on 12/20/12 at 10:26

Moonglow1: So true Pipecarver. I am sure there is an ominous plan as Haslam has no original ideas of his own. He is like every other Tea controlled governor. He takes his orders from ALEC and the Koch brothers and not the people of TN.

Of course since he champions creationism and debunks climate change large companies cannot relocate here because we have a lack of "intelligent" workers.

I believe Volkswagen decided against further expansion in Chattanooga because of these reasons.

We are becoming a third world country-and TN leads in that regard. If higher education is too expensive then why not create some jobs so people can make a decent wage and send their kids to college. Duh, now there is an idea!!

But no, Haslam and his Tea Nuts would rather enact ALEC-funded agenda's like guns on campus or creationism or voter suppression laws. Yep what a guy. You go gov...