NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled a major restructuring of the state's public higher education system Tuesday, including a plan leading to separate governing boards for the University of Memphis and other four-year universities in the Tennessee Board of Regents system.
Memphis supporters have lobbied and pushed for an independent board for decades.
The governor had scheduled an 11 a.m. news conference at the state Capitol to make what his office called "a significance announcement about" his "Drive to 55" initiative — his goal for 55 percent of Tennessee adults to have some form of post-high school credential by 2025. Currently, 32 percent of adult Tennesseans have a college degree or vocational program certificate.
Haslam is expected to establish a transitional committee that would work out details of the restructuring and a timetable. The largest Board of Regents universities — Memphis and Middle Tennessee State University — will get their own governing boards first, with benchmarks established for the other four — Austin Peay State University, East Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University and Tennessee Tech University — to eventually follow.
The state's 13 community colleges — including Pellissippi State in Knoxville and Southwest Tennessee in Memphis — and 27 colleges of applied technology are also governed by the Board of Regents.
It is unclear yet if the restructuring would affect the separate University of Tennessee system.
Tennessee's current system of public higher was established in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Although its institutions were established earlier, the Board of Regents was created by the state legislature in 1972 to oversee the six universities outside of the UT system, the then-new system of community colleges and the precursers to today's colleges of applied technology. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission was created by the Legislature in 1967 primarily as a coordinating board for all the state's post-secondary institutions.