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Tennessee Budget Includes $6.2M for New Energy Sciences and Engineering Program

February 17, 2010

Development of a new graduate energy sciences and engineering program at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK) that intends to create 200 faculty appointments for Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researchers is underway following near unanimous passage of a higher education bill last month during a special legislative session. The measure was approved 32-0 in the Senate and 93-2 in the House. In support of the new program, Gov. Phil Bredesen's FY11 budget includes $6.2 million in non-recurring funds over a three-year period. Program expenses beyond FY13 would be funded by UTK and ORNL, according to budget documents.

Through the partnership with ORNL, the governor hopes to move UT into the position of a top 25 research university within the decade. In addition to attracting researchers, the program is expected to double the number of doctoral degrees awarded by the university. The higher education bill signed by the governor also makes changes to the state's higher education funding formula, rewarding schools for graduation rates rather than enrollment, establishes dual-enrollment policies, and creates a statewide transfer policy between two- and four-year institutions of higher education.

UT research initiatives would receive $11 million in FY11 under the governor's proposal, slightly less than last year. This includes level funding of $5.3 million for fourth year non-recurring operational funds for the UT Biofuels Initiative. Operational funds are directed toward a comprehensive biomass-to-bioenergy demonstration program designed to help establish a new industry sector across the state. The UT Space Institute is slated to receive $7.7 million, which is $45,900 less than last fiscal year. The Space Institute provides graduate study and research in aerospace engineering and assists private companies involved in aerospace engineering.

For the state's 26 Centers of Excellence, which focus on expanding research and economic development, the governor recommends $18.2 million, a slight decrease from last year's $18.7 million appropriation.

Within the Department of Economic and Community Development, the governor recommends $119.3 million in total funds, a sharp decrease from last year's appropriation of $288.3 million. This includes $9.3 million (the same as last year) for the Tennessee Job Skills program, a workforce development incentive program that provides training grants to employers to create and retain high-wage jobs in emerging fields such as skilled manufacturing and high-technology.

The governor's FY11 executive budget is available at: http://tennessee.gov/finance/bud/bud1011/11Publications.html