NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A higher education expert told lawmakers on Tuesday that big changes such as those Gov. Bill Haslam is proposing for six state universities take years to implement effectively.
Haslam last week said he will introduce legislation to create local boards for Austin Peay in Clarksville; East Tennessee in Johnson City; Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro; Tennessee Tech in Cookeville; Tennessee State in Nashville; and the University of Memphis.
The schools currently are governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents, which also governs 13 community colleges and 27 technical colleges.
At a meeting of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee on governance Tuesday, no one specifically addressed Haslam's proposal. Aims McGuinness, a senior fellow with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, said there is no one gold standard for college governance. But big governance changes are disruptive, he said. They require careful planning and take a number of years to implement, he said.
Haslam hasn't said how quickly he wants to move to a new governance system.
Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan also spoke at the meeting, describing for lawmakers how the system works currently and defending its achievements. Morgan said the system is on track to meet the goals of Haslam's "Drive to 55" initiative. That aims to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with college degrees or certificates to 55 percent by the year 2025.
Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, asked Morgan what changes he would recommend within the current system but didn't ask about Haslam's proposal to break up the system.
The Board of Regents meets Thursday in Nashville, and Haslam, who chairs the board, is scheduled to make opening remarks.
Haslam hasn't provided many specifics on his proposal but he has said local boards would control budgets, tuition and the selection of college presidents. The Board of Regents would continue to provide key administrative support for the six four-year schools.
Haslam's plan would give the Higher Education Commission a greater role across the state in financial planning and crafting the schools' missions.
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