Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today called together post-secondary education leaders from across the state along with statewide business organizations to discuss the importance of a comprehensive and coordinated focus on the issues of affordability, the quality of our Tennessee colleges, universities and technology centers, and how to do a better job of matching the skills state institutions are teaching with the needs of employers.
The meeting included members of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), University of Tennessee Board of Trustees and Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) along with leaders from the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA), Tennessee Business Roundtable, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry and legislative leadership from the House and Senate.
"Tennessee is leading the way in K-12 education reform on a national level, and we are committed to continuing that momentum," Haslam said. "We've also made significant progress with post-secondary education, and the time is right to take that work to the next level.
"The status quo is not good enough for our students. We need to examine the financial structure, the quality of the programs at our state institutions, and whether we are keeping up with the dynamic training needs of employers who want to put Tennesseans to work. It is going to take all of us working together to tackle these issues, and with the good work already happening in post-secondary education, we have a solid foundation to build on."
The meeting included perspectives on the importance of post-secondary education, meeting the intellectual capital needs of the Tennessee economy and financing higher education. Presenters included:
Bill Tucker, deputy director of policy development with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation;
Nicole Smith, research professor and senior economist at the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce;
and Bill Zumeta, co-author of Financing Higher Education in the Era of Globalization.
Later this month, the governor will begin a series of candid conversations across the state with businesses and post-secondary institutions to learn about collaborations that are working in communities and areas where we need to improve matching the skills our students are learning with the needs of employers.
As chairman of the Southern Growth Policies Board, Haslam held a regional meeting in Chattanooga in late June to focus on workforce preparation issues that highlighted Tennessee companies from across the state.
"If we are going to be a state that attracts companies to locate and grow here; a state that keeps its best and brightest graduates here with good-paying, high-quality jobs, there is nothing more important we can do than to focus on education," Haslam said. "There is a lot of consensus around K-12 education reform efforts, and I think we have the opportunity to become a national model in approaching post-secondary education as well."
The governor serves as chairman of the board of directors for the TBR and UT systems.