NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday that he regrets not being able to adequately fund higher education so that all institutions that improve in some important ways can be rewarded financially.
About four years ago, Tennessee started funding its colleges and universities based on outcomes like graduation rates and credit completions instead of enrollment.
However, the state recently opted not to add any new funding to higher education for the next budget cycle because of a revenue shortfall of more than $270 million. Haslam also didn't give pay increases to teachers and state employees. Before the dismal revenue numbers, he had promised to give some type of increase to all three.
In the case of the higher education shortfall, it means schools will have to compete against one another for the same pot of money as last year.
That means some institutions that made academic progress won't have any new money to show for it.
Haslam told The Associated Press before a speech to a group of education writers on Monday that he hopes to fund higher education going forward so that schools can be properly rewarded.
"I've said all along, the things that came out of this budget that hurt me the most, were the pay raises ... and then the money we were putting into higher ed, because we do have such a focus on higher ed," Haslam said.
"It's one of the reasons we hope to put more money in the budget so that we can reward the outcome-based formula that we have."
The University of Memphis and Columbia State Community College were scheduled to receive new money but will instead lose a combined $391,400 from their current budgets, the Knoxville News Sentinel recently reported.
Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan told the newspaper that he supports the funding formula, but pointed to cases like this as reasons to be concerned if the state does not make a sufficient annual investment. He said it could lead to unintended consequences, like schools being less likely to collaborate on successful strategies.
"If it's just a zero-sum game, that's not an environment where you're going to have a lot of experience sharing," said Morgan, who oversees six state universities, 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology.
"If I help you and you do better and my numbers don't go up as fast, then I have to give up money that will go to you. If that is the world we're going to be in, it suggests there needs to be a serious reconsideration of how we fund colleges."