Haslam: Penalizing Underperforming Colleges Will Take ‘Political Courage’

Governor Bill Haslam set the table Tuesday for a discussion of how Tennessee colleges can do a better job readying students for the workforce. Much of the conversation centered on the state’s new policy of tying schools’ funding to outcomes like graduation rates.

For the rewards-based system to work, University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro told Haslam the incentives have to be there. Haslam answered that’s fair – and so do the penalties, meaning potentially unpopular funding cuts. Not blinking when the time comes for such penalties, Haslam says, will take “political courage.”

“It’s hard. I mean everybody’s for ‘Yeah, we’re gonna do it, but then I can’t have my school in my district get penalized.’ So that’s where we’re gonna have to all stand together and ‘No, the deal’s the deal, and we’re gonna reward those that do it, but those who don’t are gonna get penalized.’”

Asked whether he ultimately wants to increase state funding for higher education, which has dwindled for years, Haslam says it’s something he hopes the state can afford.


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