After meeting again Monday on higher education reform, Gov Phil Bredesen said his working group of state lawmakers and university officials is nearing consensus on proposals for the next legislative session.
The group, which includes 10 legislators and the chairmen of the Tennessee Board of Regents and University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, is developing ways to increase the role of community colleges, raise graduation rates and reward campuses for more performance.
“I think we’re coming together on some consensus on some things that might be presented to the legislature,” Bredesen told reporters after speaking to the Tennessee Farm Bureau in Franklin.
The governor said he wants to change the state’s funding system to reward institutions for graduating more students. Also, he said he hopes to make the state’s 13 community colleges more appealing to students, especially those who need remedial help, and align these schools with four-year universities for a smoother transfer of credits.
“If you have someone who wants to go to a four-year school but who just needs a lot of remedial work to do that, I think we ought to be asking the community colleges to get that remedial work done and get the four-year schools out of that remedial business,” Bredesen said. “I think the students will be more successful if we do that, and it’s certainly lower costs for the state. That’s one of the directions we’re talking about moving.”
Turning to politics, the governor praised state Sen. Roy Herron for running to succeed the retiring Rep. John Tanner in Congress, but warned “it’s not a gimme” for Democrats to keep the seat.
“Roy Herron I think will be a great candidate,” Bredesen said. “I think he was a good candidate for governor and I think he’ll be a good candidate for Congress for there. This is a state which is turning more Republican, and that district is one certainly that’s been happening in. I think it’s a very competitive district, I don’t think it’s an automatic Democratic win. But I think of some of the candidates that I’ve heard talking about getting in there, starting with Roy, I think they are good campaigners and I think there’s a perfectly good shot at holding the district. But it’s a race. It’s not a gimme.”