At the Tuesday meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Chattanooga, Chancellor Emeritus of UTC Roger Brown told of the challenges for a college education in America today. Hugh Pervost, director of the UTC exchange programs, introduced the chancellor and told the audience that the university has grown and prospered under Dr. Brown’s leadership. The school’s motto is “we shall achieve” and he noted that Chancellor Brown has lived up to that.
This year marks the 125th anniversary of the school which has had several name changes during that time. The school was founded in 1886. It later became Grant University and moved to Athens, Tn. and then again, back to Chattanooga when the name University of Chattanooga was adopted. In 1969 the school merged with the state of Tennessee university system and the name changed once more to University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Change continues for the school today as it grows and evolves.
New programs being introduced by UTC include a new doctorate of occupational therapy degree to complement the physical therapy degree already in place. Both are partnerships with Siskin Hospital for Rehabilitation. Another new program being implemented is a bachelors of integrated studies. There are estimated to be 75,000 people in Chattanooga’s strategic growth area who have earned partial credits to get a degree. This new agenda will take the credits already earned and combine them in ways that are not traditional, such as to work toward a degree in environmental or international studies. In these plans, credits will not be lost.
Another program introduced while Dr. Brown served as chancellor is offering in-state tuition to residents in North Georgia and North Alabama. He said these people pay Tennessee taxes every day and hopefully will stay and contribute to the area once they have graduated. He said that the university receives a profit of $300,000 yearly from this arrangement.
Technology is also having an impact on changes in methodology in the classroom. Electronic books are being used and lectures include a mix of interactive electronic devices for participation in the class. The procedure of teaching has been transforming in the last two decades, said Dr. Brown, and it might be a struggle for some professors to keep up with the changes.
When Dr. Brown came to the school in 2007, the student population was 9,000. This year the enrollment is 11,650 with an eventual goal of 20,000. Funding for the operating budget has evolved during that time as well. In 2007, the state provided 65 percent of the budget, and 35 percent came from students. With a budget of $105,000,000, the state now provides only 35 percent with 65 percent of the burden as tuition. It’s been completely flipped, said Dr. Brown.
With state money declining, the school is looking elsewhere for funding. Chancellor Brown said one of those sources is corporate grants. UTC has received funds for research from corporations to fill the gap between money from the state and money from tuition. Despite the recession and bad economy, about $82 million has been received from fundraising, which exceeds the original goal of $65 million. Most of this money has been used for scholarships and to support student success.
Dr. Brown told the Kiwanis members that the school has a tremendous economic impact on the city of Chattanooga. Since he became chancellor, the campus has made $100 million in capital improvements, including a new $48 million state-of-the-art library. He said that J.R. Clark, director of the Center for Economic Education at UTC, did a study to determine the impact the school has on the city and concluded there is a $280 million yearly economic contribution to Chattanooga in addition to the cultural and athletic benefits. “It’s a good deal for the city to have a thriving school,” said Chancellor Brown.
Tennessee is one of the few states that no longer base a university’s budget on the number of students enrolled, which was the procedure when Dr. Brown first came to the school. Now, money is determined by how students progress and graduate. The biggest boost is when a degree is earned. He said it is all about being accountable for how a student succeeds.
The University of Tennessee has raised admission standards for the campus in Knoxville, admitting roughly 25 percent of applicants. UTC’s rate is admittance is around 75 percent of applicants. The role seen for this school is to help achieve success for families without college backgrounds. Unfortunately, the graduation rate is only around 50 percent at UTC. It is hard for school officials to determine who will be the population that does not succeed and to figure out why the attrition is so high. Some causes are a mobile society and competition with other similar regional and for-profit schools that do a lot of advertising.
Dr. Brown said because of these challenges, the school must now play, think and plan like a business to compete with these type institutions. The university is attempting to treat students like customers. He gave examples of a new Starbucks on the campus and the “Lazy River” that is being built at the student aquatic center.
The collective goal of UTC is to teach every student to be a critical thinker who is able to analyze a problem and boil down the issues to the important ones that help find a solution. In conclusion, Chancellor Brown told the audience that they need to support the local university.