Tennessee Board of Regents requests funding for four new initiatives

Rick Wagner • Oct 1, 2017 at 10:00 PM

MEMPHIS — Do community and technical college students need success coaches? The Tennessee Board of Regents thinks so.

The TBR has recommended $14.1 million to fund four priority requests for education, job-training and security initiatives across the state’s community and technical college system for the next fiscal year. They include 100 new success coaches to bolster student advising.

Officials of Blountville-based Northeast State and Morristown-based Walters State community colleges spoke highly of the four priorities although they said details of potential implementation on each campus are nebulous. The TBR governs the College System of Tennessee, the state’s 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology, and held its fall quarterly meeting in Memphis Sept. 21-22, voting on the four priorities Sept. 22.

The requests approved by the board, including capital requests outside Northeast Tennessee, will be submitted to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission for consideration alongside priorities from the state’s universities. THEC will develop priorities for public higher education overall for submission to Gov. Bill Haslam for consideration in developing his fiscal year 2018-19 state budget proposal to the General Assembly. The system’s top priority is THEC’s higher education funding formula for operating the campuses. The four requests approved Friday are for educational initiatives not covered by the operating funding formula.

The success coaches, or relational advisers, would work directly with students to help them navigate financial aid, career exploration and problems that arise, complementing the work of faculty and academic advisers, according to TBR spokesman Rick Locker. The goal of the relational advising model is to increase first-year student retention rates and graduation rates.

“The Tennessee Board of Regents has identified success coaches, regional innovation centers, and mobile training units as having a broad benefit across the System,” according to a Wednesday afternoon statement provided by Northeast State Community spokesman College Bob Carpenter. “Northeast State stands ready to work with TBR in the development of these initiatives and lend any expertise necessary to ensure their success. The college's administration, faculty, and staff look forward to learning more about these programs and their potential impact on student success at the college.”

Here is more information about the four initiatives and their costs:

Relational advising: $7.6 million, with $7.1 million recurring and $500,000 non-recurring.

“Walters State Community College shares TBR’s support for initiatives that increase student success,” Walters State President Tony Miska said in a written statement Thurdsay morning. “We welcome these new initiatives designed to increase the retention and graduate rates of our students. Success coaches will improve student retention and success by improving one-on-one advising. Walters State has completion coaches in place now and they have proven to be very valuable. These additional success coaches will enable us to serve more students who need more specialized advising.”

— Regional Innovation Centers: $1.5 million non-recurring is sought to establish three innovation and technology education networks, one each in East, Middle and West Tennessee. Community and technical colleges would form the networks’ core and each regional network would serve as an association of area economic development agencies dedicated to keeping the regional economically strong. They would also benefit Tennessee Reconnect, the state’s program for tuition-free college for adults without degrees, by setting up workforce training for adult learners through apprenticeship/internship experiences.

— Mobile Adaptive Training Units: $3 million non-recurring to buy and equip three mobile adaptive training units to provide quick response to job-training needs for new and existing industries. The units would be more cost-effective than new buildings for response critical training facilities.

“Walters State, along with the state’s other community colleges, play a key role in economic development activities in the areas we serve,” Miska said. “A regional innovation center may be a way to multiply our efforts by working closely together. The same could be said for the mobile adaptive training units. Both of these may help us respond even quicker to the needs of our workforce partners.”

— Safety and security enhancements: $2 million non-recurring is sought for the second year of safety enhancements across the college system. “The safety of our students and staff is of paramount importance, so we look forward to the second year of safety enhancements,” Miska said. 

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