6 Tennessee universities to receive independent governing boards
- Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed the FOCUS Act into law earlier this month, establishing a new governance structure for all four-year colleges and universities outside of the University of Tennessee System.
- The Focus on College and University Success law establishes governor-appointed independent boards at six schools in the Tennessee Board of Regents System, allowing them autonomy in executive hiring, budget requests and operational guidance.
- Critics of the FOCUS Act say the split promotes competitive imbalance within the UT System, while supporters say it removes bureaucratic “red tape” from the governance process.
Under usual circumstances, institutional autonomy is a good idea for any public governance. But in Tennessee, the prospects for growth under the FOCUS Act appear to be questionable.
The Tennessee Board of Regents will remain in control of the state’s community and technical colleges, which stand to earn a sizable share of in-state student enrollment by way of the Tennessee Promise scholarship initiative under the state's ‘Drive to 55’ plan,
When balancing this against the larger research and development machines within UT System schools, the six institutions under the FOCUS Act appear to be in an uphill battle against two systems which, seemingly, will have more backing from the state to expand. And considering that new boards will be appointed by and potentially loyal to the governor’s will, leaders and stakeholders at the six schools should proceed with a watchful eye about funding and institutional objectives.
- The Tennessean Gov. Bill Haslam signs transformative college overhaul