As always, the devil's in the details. From The Tennessean.
On paper, the changes are pretty straight-forward. The six universities in the Board of Regents system, including Tennessee State and Middle Tennessee State universities, are getting their own boards and will generally call their own shots on a wide range of issues, including tuition and the hiring and firing of presidents.
But the mechanics are a lot more complicated.
The Board of Regents has existed in its current form since 1972. In the decades since, university leaders, policymakers and governors have become accustomed to that model, which requires cooperation and shared priorities among 46 diverse institutions.
Now, leaders at the Board of Regents, the University of Tennessee system — which has a separate board — and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission need to come to the table to figure out how they will all work together with six additional players on the field. At the same time, officials at each newly independent university need to decide how their work shifts under a new and more focused board.
The governor's office has appointed a task force to oversee the transition. Multiple universities have followed suit.
It could be like untangling that mess of wires behind the TV.
Haslam has consistently said that reorganizing things will make for a smoother and more productive arrangement.
He hopes to see universities zero in on their populations with renewed fervor while the community and technical colleges in the Board of Regents become more "market sensitive," sculpting their academic programs around the needs of students and the workforce.
Such, well, focus would be impossible under the current structure, he said.
"I'll be really disappointed if ... we didn't look back 10 years from now and say they really have increased the quality of what they're providing for Tennesseans," Haslam said during a meeting of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission in April.
At the same meeting, he acknowledged it was a bit of a gamble.
"Any time you change structure there's some risk, and we're aware of that," Haslam said.
To succeed, he said, a newly strengthened higher education commission will need to serve as a referee that will manage competition while ensuring the state's interests remain front and center. Without the commission as a mediator, he said, "it does become chaos."