To meet demand for STEM and health care workers over the next decade, Tennessee may soon incentivize its community colleges and universities to recruit and graduate students in those fields.
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission is proposing a change to its funding formula that would give more money to colleges for students majoring in high-need academic fields.
About a quarter of all associate degrees, a third of all bachelor degrees and over half of community college certificates would qualify for this premium, according to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
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Some of these high-need fields are:
Agriculture, agricultural operations and related sciences
Natural resources and conservation
Computer and information sciences
Engineering technologies and technicians
Biological and biomedical sciences
Mathematics and statistics
Health professions and related clinical sciences
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission identified these high-need fields using data provided by Jobs4TN and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
Gov. Bill Lee asked the commission to adjust the formula to be more responsive to the workforce demands ahead in the next 10 years.
The extra money will help community colleges and universities afford creating and supporting high-cost degrees like engineering and other STEM programs.
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Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission Emily House and Chief Policy Officer Steven Gentile presented this change and others to the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. Its board will vote on the changes in May.
Other changes to the funding formula include:
Remove state-provided funding for workforce training from third-parties at community colleges
Reduce how much recurring fixed costs, such as equipment and utilities for administrative and academic buildings, influence state funding
Receiving a premium for out-of-state, low-income students
What is the outcomes-based funding formula?
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission uses the outcomes-based formula to distribute funds to Tennessee's colleges and universities each year.
These outcomes reflect the state's educational goals, such as Tennessee's Drive to 55 goal of getting 55% of Tennesseans a college degree or certificate by the year 2025.
Tennessee is the only state that uses solely an outcomes-based formula, according to House.
Universities and community colleges receive a share of available state funds each year based on how well they met the outcomes, such as how many degrees or certificates were awarded.
The commission also gives more money for certain "focus populations" as they progress through and graduate college. These students could be adults, low-income, academically underprepared or a combination of the three.
The more outcomes a college meets year after year, the more funds they receive from the state. That funding influences tuition and fees.
The University of Tennessee System received $684.4 million in state appropriations in 2021-2022, which accounts for 41% of its revenue, according to the UT System Office of Finance and Administration. Tuition makes up about 48% of its revenue.The University of Tennessee at Knoxville received $277.7 million in state appropriations.
The University of Memphis received $138.5 million in state appropriations and $207.7 million in tuition and fees for fiscal year 2022, according to its office of financial planning and analysis.
The outcomes-based formula was developed in 2010 by the state with the help of colleges and state government representatives, and it's reviewed every five years. The previous formula was based on enrollment numbers.
Because of the pandemic, the five-year review that was supposed to start in 2021 was postponed to 2022.
Rebecca Wright: Higher education reporter at Knox News
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This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Tennessee wants colleges to graduate more STEM, health care students