published Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Tennessee Higher Education Commission OKs $290 million in projects

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    Richard Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission passed the 2012-13 capital projects recommendations Tuesday, a list that requires close to $290 million in state funds.

The commission also approved 60 already funded capital projects in the Tennessee Board of Regents and the University of Tennessee systems at a cost of $254 million.

The list now will be sent to Gov. Bill Haslam's office.

For the first time, institutions are required to share the financing of new capital outlay projects. The percentage varies according to institution, said Russ Deaton, chief fiscal officer of THEC.

Under the recommendations, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga would be required to come up with 25 percent of a $59.5 million life sciences laboratory, while the state provides $44.625 million, according to THEC documents.

"The harsh reality being that the conventional reliance on state for total funding for capital projects and maintenance the state is no longer in the position to do that, not just in Tennessee but in other states as well," Richard Rhoda, executive director of THEC, said Tuesday during a conference call.

The list of projects that range from roof replacements to new academic buildings was planned to meet requirements of the Complete College Tennessee Act, which focuses on increasing educational attainment and workforce development.

Under this new plan, institutions are also required to plan ahead, Deaton said.

"We are asking that campuses engage in full planning process in advance of hopefully the state being able to fund a project," he said. "It will streamline the process and help move the project quicker to fruition."

Deaton said the list of projects in both higher education systems is an "honest assessment" of what's needed.

"It's a big number, no doubt, but that's the prudent way we think to go forward," he said.

If funded, the list would be the second-largest capital investment on record.

The five-year plan, a total of $2.1 billion with $1.8 billion coming from state funds, would be the largest investment in state history, he said.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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