Last night, Gov. Bill Lee presented the 2022 State of the State address to the Tennessee General Assembly. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Gov. Lee and his administration for a proposal that represents record-breaking funding and support to the campuses and institutes across the University of Tennessee System that will greatly improve our ability to move our state forward.
The governor’s proposed budget investments include:
- Making College More Affordable. The budget proposes increasing HOPE Scholarships across the board to $5,100. Scholarships currently stand at $3,500 for full-time eligible freshmen and sophomores, and $4,500 for juniors and seniors at public four-year institutions. This significant increase will make college more affordable for thousands of Tennesseans.
- 4% Salary Pool. The budget recommends funding for a 4% salary increase pool for higher education employees across the state, as well as funding to cover the increase in insurance premiums.
- Record Formula Funding. The governor’s budget proposal funds the performance formula at $90 million, a record commitment. If approved, UT will receive $27.7 million of these funds.
- Fully-Funding the UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute (UT-ORII). UT-ORII builds on existing strengths and partnerships with UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and establishes a strategic presence for critical collaborative research, interdisciplinary education and workforce development. UT-ORII brings together world-leading scientists and engineers with students and faculty under one umbrella to provide innovative education, training and workforce development with a focus on areas of vital importance to Tennessee and our nation. The state made an initial investment of $8 million to establish UT-ORII in 2021. This year, Gov. Lee is proposing an additional $72 million investment, completing the state’s investment in this critical initiative eight years ahead of schedule.
- Modernizing Processes. The budget proposes $170 million to assist public universities with implementing new Enterprise Resource Planning Systems. The new cloud-based human resources and finance system will provide a competitive edge by enhancing operational efficiency, reducing costs to operate, ensuring accountability, increasing transparency and improving customer service.
- Funding Capital Projects to Expand Enrollment Opportunities in Key Areas. Gov. Lee’s proposed budget would provide UT with more than $263.5 million for capital needs, including funding for two important UT capital priorities. The UT Chattanooga (UTC) Health Sciences building at $55.9 million would create a new health sciences teaching facility and simulated lab space for the UTC School of Nursing. This would enable the program to grow by 60% and help address the state’s nursing shortage. In addition, $83 million is proposed to expand the UT Knoxville Haslam College of Business facility to accommodate program growth. Several renovation projects are also recommended at UTC and the UT Health Science Center (UTHSC).
- Creating an Institute for American Civics. The governor announced $4 million in recurring and $2 million in nonrecurring funding for an Institute for American Civics. The institute will be located at the University of Tennessee to support and enhance statewide efforts to highlight the role American institutions play in resolving conflict, advancing human dignity and making public policy. The University of Tennessee can be a beacon of light for civil discourse. We are positioned to facilitate crucial conversations on civic engagement through a full and fair discussion that involves civil dialogue involving varying points of view. We appreciate Gov. Lee’s support and welcome the opportunity to extend civic knowledge and the foundations of America’s fundamental political and economic institutions.
- Increasing Graduate Medical Education. The governor’s proposed budget includes $18.6 million recurring funds to address the state’s residency shortage, support medical students and increase health care access across the state. The majority of these funds will go to support UTHSC residents as the state’s largest producer of the healthcare workforce.
- Improved Access to Rural Dental Care. Gov. Lee is proposing funding a partnership between the Tennessee Department of Health and the UTHSC to improve rural access to dental care. If approved, the UTHSC will receive a significant investment to support outreach and training by the UTHSC College of Dentistry in the state’s rural and underserved areas.
- Operating Increases. The proposed budget includes $4.3 million in new operating funds for the UTHSC and the UT College of Veterinary Medicine to help offset rapidly rising costs of medical education.
As we work to make this the greatest decade in the history of the University of Tennessee, this proposed budget represents $471 million in new investments that will be critical in ensuring we are able to solve grand challenges and move our state forward.
We are thankful for Gov. Lee’s support and look forward to working with the legislature as they consider this budget proposal.
To track the progress of this budget proposal, or to receive updates on legislative information impacting the University of Tennessee, please consider joining the UT Advocacy Network: https://advocacy.tennessee.edu.