System Office impact Q&A
What does it mean that the universities remain part of the System, but aren’t governed by TBR or its policies?
A: The FOCUS Act essentially expands the governing boards for the State University and Community College System (referred to as the Tennessee Board of Regents) from one governing board — the Board of Regents – to include six additional boards of trustees, one for each university in the system. In the state’s higher education organization structure, the six universities will remain classified within the State University and Community College System. However, governance of the universities will shift to separate boards of trustees while the Board of Regents remains the governing body for the community colleges and colleges of applied technology that are also classified within the State University and Community College System. TBR will continue to approve operating budgets for universities and distribute funds to them; however, this review and approval is limited to ensuring each university can appropriately cover outstanding indebtedness. TBR program approval processes remain the same for TCATs and community colleges, but universities will no longer submit academic programs to the TBR board for approval. These changes will take place only after the university boards of trustees have been convened and have adopted their own policies.
- What will the TBR govern?
A: The Tennessee Board of Regents remains the governing body for the community colleges and colleges of applied technology.
- What does this do to our collaborative student success initiatives like the Transfer Pathways, where institutions have to align? Won’t it create greater competition among institutions and institution types?
A: The Tennessee Transfer Pathways were created by a separate statute as part of the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010, so they should not be affected by the changes created with the FOCUS Act. TBR and THEC will work to continue close collaboration among institutions. The FOCUS Act includes a statement requiring the TBR to work with the university boards to ensure alignment between community colleges and state universities, especially related to innovation and student success initiatives. The Tennessee Promise scholarship creates an incentive for the universities to continue to develop smooth transitions for students to transfer.
- How will the FOCUS Act impact TN eCampus, in particular those programs that are a collaborative among the six universities?
A: At present there are no plans to modify TN eCampus, although there will likely be discussions about how best to move forward in the future. If changes become necessary at a later date, then arrangements would be made to make the transition as seamless as possible for all involved.
- What services will still be provided to universities by TBR System Office?
A: Services will remain the same until the university governing boards convene. After that, TBR will continue to approve operating budgets for universities and distribute funds to them; however, this review and approval will be limited to ensuring each university can appropriately cover outstanding indebtedness. By Nov. 30, 2017, THEC will solicit and receive requests from the TBR universities to assume responsibility for data systems, capital project planning and management, and procurement. THEC may approve or deny those requests.
- Will the Facilities Office remain at TBR?
A: Yes. The Facilities Office will still provide its services to the 40 community colleges and TCATs around the state.
OTHER QUESTIONS TO BE CONSIDERED:
- Will universities still be part of sub-council meetings as non-voting members?
- How will Academic Affairs still play a role in curriculum and program development and approval?
- Is there a standard response that employees should provide when asked by vendors and other state agency representatives about the FOCUS Act and the universities becoming more independent?