Gov. Bill Haslam said the days of higher education cuts are likely coming to an end. He is working to figure out how to fund universities in a way that will allow them to meet the growing workforce needs of Tennessee companies.
The state is now in a position where it has some money in the bank. And while everyone wants a piece of the pie, the governor said one of the biggest needs is making sure colleges have the necessary tools to train the future workforce.
Representatives for some of Middle Tennessee's largest employers met with Haslam on Tuesday to express what they need out of Tennessee's college graduates.
"I think it is fair to say you are going to see a different type of focus on higher ed, and the days where we diminish funding for higher ed, I hope, are over, because I don't think we can afford to do that any more," Haslam said.
But the tricky part is how to fund the programs to deliver what employers want.
Haslam said Tennessee employers have concerns about graduates' communication and critical thinking skills, and too many people are majoring in social sciences and not enough in the core subject areas.
But those needs will likely be reflected in the governor's next budget.
"I think the first thing this impacts is how we budget. So when you see higher education capital budget next year, I hope it results from thoughtfulness we're in the middle of now," Haslam said.
However, the governor said throwing money at the problem is not the solution. Rather, he said it's going to require some give and take from higher education institutions.
"If you want me to invest, you've got to show me where you are going to divest. It can't just be about more money. You gotta show me more students are going this way and more money needs to go this way. You gotta show me what you will stop doing," Haslam said.
The state has a $500 million surplus this year, and a lot of people are vying for some of the money. Haslam said there will be some changes in the next budget.
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