New TBR plan will reshape core curricula

Tech will soon be implementing several changes across campus-some occurring as early as next semester-as part of a massive overhaul of Tennessee’s higher education.This fall, students at Tech-or any other four-year college-will not be able to take any developmental classes taught by the University. Instead, students will be able to take them at local community colleges while still being enrolled at Tech.

“We would like for students who must enroll in remedial or developmental classes to be able to take these classes on campus, they will just be taught by a professor from a local community college,” President Bob Bell said. “They would still be considered a student at Tech and would still be able to live and participate on campus. They would also be students at a local community college, similar to a dual enrollment.”

Bell hopes that this proposal for students to attend both types of higher education will foster partnerships between the University and local community colleges like Volunteer State in Livingston or Nashville State in Cookeville.

If a student at a two-year school decided to enroll at Tech, they would tell their adviser, who would then contact the University. Depending on that student’s area of study, Tech would then assign them an adviser who would educate them on what core classes to take, which credits will transfer, and what their class schedule would be like once they transferred as a junior.

This partnered system is designed to make transferring between a community college and Tech more seamless and cohesive.

Transferring from another four-year school to Tech is predicted to be easier because of the implementation of a statewide master plan. This plan, currently in the formation process, will help each school emphasize its academic strengths while reducing overlapping or competing degree offerings.

It will also create a standardized general education core of 41 hours, which all universities in the University of Tennessee and TBR systems must agree upon.

“It will help make all of us in the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Board of Regents systems clear on what will be allowed to transfer,” Bell said. “This should help clear up a lot of the confusion that can arise when a student tries to transfer across systems.”

Bell went on to speculate that schools across the state may fear losing their individual specializations once the master plan goes into effect. This could mean that schools like Middle Tennessee State University-which is reputed to be a “communications focused school”-or Tech-also known as a “technologically focused school”-could lose their reputations.

“We still need to maintain our distinctiveness as a university that specializes in many technical fields,” Bell said. “But we should have a more cohesive freshman and sophomore transfer system.”

Despite being generally well-received across campus, Bell says that some controversy has arisen. Several professors feel they may lose their personalized curricula because of the

standardization of core classes, preventing them from teaching the topics they are more interested or knowledgeable in.

“Right now they [the faculty] are concerned, which is why I will be meeting multiple times with the Faculty Senate,” Bell said. “We will work on improving their acceptance of this new program while ensuring Tech meets these new standards.”

Bell will be meeting with the Faculty Senate over the next few months to discuss the possible impact of the act on their personalized curricula.

All of these changes are part of Tech’s compliance with the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010. The act was passed on Jan. 21 by the Tennessee General Assembly, and is the result of more than a year of bipartisan discussion regarding the future of Tennessee’s colleges and universities.

The act was strongly influenced by Complete College America-a nonprofit organization funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and dedicated to improving states’ graduation rates-and was developed with the recommendations of Stan Jones, president of CCA. Its aim is to increase the number of Tennesseans with college degrees.

The University of Tennessee and Tennessee Board of Regents systems will both fall under this act. The University of Tennessee system, however, will be allowed to maintain some of its current practices, like its competitive application policy at the Knoxville campus.

Since the act is in its initial stages, it could be a while before official rules and regulations are established and enacted. Time will tell how drastically Tech will be affected.