Trustees discuss higher education cuts at Memphis meeting - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Trustees discuss higher education cuts at Memphis meeting

By Nick Kenney - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Inside the Alumni Center on the University of Tennessee's Memphis campus, two days worth of endless meetings are underway - meetings that could change higher education in this state.

The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees is in Memphis for winter meetings.  On day two, the board's finance and administration committee discussed a gloomy prognosis.

"The state's not going to be able to support higher education any more than it currently is, but the needs are greater than ever for more college-educated Tennesseans," Trustee Richard Rhoda said. "We can't continue to raise tuition."

But a tuition hike is on the way - nine percent on the Knoxville campus, and seven percent elsewhere across the state.  Trustees must decide how to handle the University of Tennessee system's budget shortfall. The board is meeting to determine how and where to cut.

"Balancing cost with quality, where's the right point? You don't know exactly, but what you do is try to find the one that works," Trustee John Peterson said.

Under the current proposal, about 500 University of Tennessee employees would lose their jobs statewide, 200 of them in Memphis.  Many of the proposed job cuts would include maintenance work and adjunct instructors.

Trustees say they're trying to protect tenured professors because they attract students to campus.

"What they've proposed is, once again, being very strategic and taking out of areas that have less of an impact, an impact on the core mission of the institution going forward," Peterson said.

"The full board of trustees meets Friday afternoon, when the proposed job cuts could become reality. The Board of Trustees is also beginning to consider cutting and consolidating certain academic programs. Those discussions won't intensify until the board meets again in June.

The University of Tennessee is proposing to eliminate nearly 800 jobs next year due to declining state revenues. Here is the total for the UT system and a breakdown for its campuses.

- University of Tennessee systemwide, 777 positions (543 currently filled)
- UT-Knoxville, 326 positions (204 filled)
- UT-Health Science Center, 200 positions (no vacancies)
- UT-Chattanooga, 59 positions (24 filled)
- UT-Martin, 13 positions (6 filled)
- UT Institute for Agriculture, UT Space Institute, other, 179 positions (109 filled)
Source: University of Tennessee

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