Performance funding, innovation facility highlight board announcements

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) has recommended that the University of Tennessee at Martin receive $393,000 in additional outcomes-based formula funding in the next budget year based on established standards. The announcement was made by University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd in comments Oct. 23 during the fall meeting of the UT Board of Trustees. The meeting was conducted by webcast in accordance with recommended safety standards during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boyd also announced that THEC has moved UT Martin’s Innovation and Product Realization Facility to the commission’s Capital Projects Recommendation List. The $17.5 million, 50,000-square-foot innovation center is one of three University of Tennessee projects recommended by THEC. The facility is a joint effort by UT Martin, Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology and Dyersburg State Community College to support and expand workforce and economic development in rural Northwest Tennessee. Both the additional outcomes-based formula funding and the innovation center are agenda items for the fall 2020 commission meeting Nov. 6 at Middle Tennessee State University.

Mike Krause, THEC executive director, visited UT Martin on Oct. 21 and previewed both announcements during a weekly faculty and staff town hall. “UT Martin will be one of the institutions that’s actually performed well enough in the outcomes-based funding formula to receive new money. …” Krause told the Zoom audience. “And succeeding in the outcomes-based funding formula, without question, only happens if every layer to the university has bought in.

“You have an incredible chancellor, you have an incredible senior leadership team, you have an incredible faculty, you have an incredible staff, and when all of those pieces come together, the (funding) formula takes care of itself.”

Petra McPhearson, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said that the funding news comes at an opportune time for the university. “Funding formula investments allow us to pay for initiatives that help our students be successful,” she said in a statement. “This fiscal year, the formula resulted in a reduction of over $1.1 million. The money will help us recover from the funding loss in fiscal year 2021. The new funding in fiscal year 2022 will certainly give us a step in the right direction.”

The Innovation and Product Realization Facility will be located on the UT Martin main campus and combine educational facilities, entrepreneurial centers and manufacturing workshops surrounding a shared industrial maker space. “You all sent in a great (innovation center) proposal, and as a result, you’re on our list, and our mission now, my mission, is to work with Chancellor (Keith) Carver and President Boyd to work to get that building funded and to work to get the outcomes-based funding formula funded,” Krause said.

“The pandemic is challenging higher education and UT Martin in multiple ways,” said Carver in a statement. “THEC’s recommendations for additional outcomes-based funding support and the new innovation center come at a critical time as we seek innovative ways to support our students and contribute to the region’s economic development now and in the future. We never take for granted support by the commission, the state and the University of Tennessee.”

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