Legislature Moves Forward With Confirmation Of University Governing Boards

Earlier this year, the legislature moved forward with the confirmation of 48 appointments to Tennessee’s new university governing boards, giving the higher education institutions involved increased autonomy to support student success as the state continues its Drive to 55 initiative: the goal of getting 55 percent of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025 to meet the demands of the 21st Century job market.

The 48 appointments include the governing boards of Austin Peay State University, East Tennessee State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University, and the University of Memphis. The boards are the result of the Focus On College And University Success (FOCUS) Act, which was passed by the General Assembly in 2016.

Prior to the passage of the FOCUS Act, many education experts raised questions as to whether the higher education structure in place at that point was organized appropriately to meet today’s changing education environment – including a 10 percent increase in overall first-time freshman enrollment at Tennessee universities and a nearly 25 percent increase in first-time freshman enrollment at state community colleges last year alone. With 46 institutions under its belt to look after, proponents agreed it was difficult for the Board of Regents to meet all of the diverse challenges of today’s educational system.

With the FOCUS Act, the massive 46 institution conglomerate under the Board of Regents was shifted and local governing boards were created, allowing community colleges the ability to focus at a system level, while giving the state’s four-year universities the benefit of greater overall autonomy and decision-making.

Now that they are appointed, the new boards will have the authority to appoint campus presidents, manage university budgets and set tuition, and guide other operational tasks of the universities they oversee.


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