Haslam budget funds MTSU Science Building

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The MTSU Science Building will be located on the south side of campus adjacent to the James E. Walker Library on the site of the old Wood, Felder, Gore and Clement dorms. (Photo courtesy of MTSU/Thomas Miller & Partners PLLC)

During a speech focused on the importance of having an educated workforce, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday the proposed $31 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes funding for construction of the new Science Building at Middle Tennessee State University.

“For the last few years, we have not been funding higher education’s capital plans to meet the growth of student demand,” Haslam said, during his State of the State address at Legislative Plaza in Nashville. “This budget will finally provide the state’s funding for the long overdue Science Building at MTSU.”

The budget proposal also includes a 2.5 percent pay raise for state employees, a 0.5 percent decrease of the sales tax on groceries, and sets aside $50 million for the Rainy Day Fund, bringing the balance to $356 million for critical services during times of emergency.

“This budget reflects the economic realities,” he said. “It includes strategic investments in our priorities, savings for the future, and reductions, sometimes painful, to balance the budget.”

Although other states have cut education funding since the recession, Haslam said Tennessee should not continue down a similar path.

“Higher education must be another priority for the state of Tennessee,” he said.

Following the announcement, university officials applauded Haslam’s decision to allot $126.7 million for the project.

“We are grateful to (him) for recognizing the importance of the Science Building project and including funding for its construction in this year’s budget proposal,” MTSU President Sidney McPhee said in a press release.

For more than 10 years, the university has sought funding that would pay for constructing a new stand-alone building, which would provide students with state-of-the-art equipment, research laboratories and collaborative learning spaces.

Science classes are currently housed in the Wiser-Patten Science Hall and Davis Science Building, both of which are more than 40 years old and in need of updates and repairs.

“As home to the state’s largest undergraduate student population, the Science Building is critical to our continuing efforts to provide Tennessee with graduates ready for the 21st century workforce,” McPhee said.

Although the Science Building has consistently remained the top priority on the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s capital outlay list, the issue has remained mired in politics, often being cut from the state’s budget during last minute negotiations among legislators in the General Assembly.

However, this is the first time in recent years that higher education funding has not been reduced in a governor’s proposed budget.

“For most of the last two decades, higher education has received less funding for their operating budget,” Haslam said. “That changes this year.”

In an effort to control out-of-pocket costs for students, Haslam said the proposed budget also increases the amount of money available for need-based scholarships.

“We simply have to keep tuition increases in Tennessee to a minimum, so that we can encourage more access to more students,” he said, adding that increasing enrollment, as well as graduation rates, would help ensure continued economic growth.

It is unacceptable that employers hire outside of the state because prospective employees from Tennessee do not have the necessary math and science skills, he said.

“When 21 percent of our population has a degree, compared with a national average of 30 percent, and (more than) half of the new jobs being created in the next decade will require degrees,” he said, “encouraging more Tennesseans to aspire to a higher education is one of our key roles as leaders of the state.”

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Bill Haslam, Democrats, Education, General Assembly, GOP, MTSU, Murfreesboro, Politics, Science Building, Sidney McPhee, Tennessee
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Members Opinions:
January 31, 2012 at 12:38am
It's about time! MTSU has needed a new science facility for decades. Even better, a Republican finally recognized the need to support some spending on education.
February 03, 2012 at 10:04pm
As a student of Middle Tennessee University, I am excited to know that Haslam is helping to plan for the development of a new science building. The new science building will be very beneficial to all of the students here at MTSU. I have seen lots of progress in the demolition of the old buildings which once stood where the new science building is going to go. Middle Tennessee is a very large school, and I believe that its lower tuition has helped develop MTSU in to a greater university. As the construction continues, I strongly believe that this will help put MTSU on the map in Tennessee. For much of my college career it has seemed like Middle Tennessee has been a well kept secret. Adding a state-of-the-art science building can only help improve the image that MTSU already has. I am very glad to se that Haslam is focusing his efforts on developing a better learning community which will in turn, help the students of Middle Tennessee University, and receive better jobs when we do graduate. Hopefully the existing Wiser-Patten Building will also get updated. Middle Tennessee University is turning 100 years old this year and I am excited to see what kind of future it will have for us as students.
February 04, 2012 at 8:17am
But absolutely no funding for TSU at all. The only public four year accredited university in Nashville. I guess that's okay if it doesn't effect you personally. I live in Murfreesboro It's good to receive funding, but can conservatives be more blatantly obvious of their TRUE feelings?? By golly!! You ALL ran on fiscal responsibilty. But TSU not getting a dime?? Penny? That's a disgrace!! Let's not forget that a lot of YOU people have benefited from a TSU education. I will point you out if i have to.
February 06, 2012 at 7:39pm
Dal3q I will have to concur with you on the fact that a new science building will be a good thing for us here at MTSU. Now if only Sidney McPhee would do a better job with the parking situation here on campus. All of this construction going on is taking up a lot of the student lots. It would be nice if the science building would have been around for those of us that are more than likely going to be out in the work force or just plain graduated by then. In case some people have not been told about it, Sidney McPhee has misappropriated state funds earmarked for other projects. He has been told that he has to have all of the parking structure or was it the science building itself done by a specific time or he would lose all future state funding.
I will also agree that the state of Tennessee needs to add more higher education spending as opposed to cutting funding. You get what you pay for when it comes to education. I do think MTSU needs to focus on sports and athletics but maybe not so much that all other aspects of the college spending are left to fall to the way side. There really is no need for the football coach to make a quarter of a million dollars a year. The laboratory equipment when I took my Biology class seemed old as dirt. I do hope that some of this science building funding goes to the geology end of things. Geology is an important part of science as well.
February 10, 2012 at 11:26pm
I am a junior at Middle Tennessee State University, so I doubt I will be able to enjoy the new science building when it is completed. I am happy; however, the governor has agreed to allow funding for a new science building on campus. The Wiser-Patten Science is so outdated, as well as the much of the laboratory equipment in the building. The Science Building will be a great addition to the new College of Education Building and the soon to be completed Student Union Building. It is very exciting to see the campus expand and allow more opportunities to students.
I would also like to add, I am so happy about the governor’s strong support for higher education in Tennessee. It seems education costs are the first to be cut in many states right now, and it is encouraging our state government seems to realize the importance of higher education. As the article points out, many jobs in the future will require at least a bachelor’s degree. So defunding higher education would be terrible, in my opinion, for many young people who want to have the correct knowledge and skills to enter the work force. I did not vote for Bill Haslam because I was afraid he would cut higher education spending for Tennessee colleges and universities, but I am glad he is proving me wrong.
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