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KNOXVILLE — Gov. Don Sundquist and University of Tennessee President J. Wade Gilley Tuesday launched a new educational initiative, UT New College, designed to make higher education more accessible to all working Tennesseans via non-traditional means, including the Internet.

UT New College will replace and transform the university-s statewide continuing education division headed for the past decade by Vice President Sammie Lynn Puett.

Sundquist, who also chairs UT-s Board of Trustees, said the New College initiative has the potential to, among other things, help the 400,000 working Tennesseans who have earned two years of college credit or more gain a baccalaureate degree without leaving their families, communities or careers.

The initiative also seeks to:
–commercialize new faculty-developed multimedia and online educational products including courses and degrees;
–work with private companies and other educational institutions in Tennessee and across the nation to win major educational and training contracts; and
–compete for new federal funds available for non-traditional education ventures.

The governor said New College will work with Tennessee Board of Regents colleges and universities to deliver educational and training programs and degrees to working Tennesseans around the clock.

Gilley said that several American universities are launching ventures such as New College to address needs not served by traditional campuses.

He cited Stanford, Chicago, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia and the London School of Economics, which recently advanced more than $100 million from their endowments to launch UNext Inc., a for profit university that will deliver programs and courses world wide.

“As governor of this great state, I understand how important an educated work force is to Tennessee’s future,” Sundquist said. “Too many Tennesseans still are not living up to their full earning potential. They are being held back because they lack access to training, college campuses, and time and money for the full college experience.

“New College can change that. New College is truly about opening the door to lifelong learning. Our administration supports this forward-looking initiative 100 percent.”

Gilley said only 17 percent of Tennesseans have a college degree — one of the lowest per capita ratios in the nation. He has mentioned this fact during his first year at UT-s helm and has made higher educational attainment for Tennesseans a major UT goal. New College has the potential to help raise that number, he said.

“The University of Tennessee must expand its continuing education programs, particularly its Web-based offerings, to better respond to the citizens of Tennessee,” Gilley said. “As the state’s land grant institution, it is our obligation to help better educate the state’s citizens and its workforce. New College is one way to respond to that challenge.”

Gilley said New College will target primarily working adults, but also high school students who wish to take college level courses prior to enrollment. It will offer professional certification, continuing education programs, and facilitate the offering of undergraduate and graduate degrees from UT’s accredited campuses across the state as well as working cooperatively with Board of Regents institutions, he said.

Gilley said New College would not be a separately accredited degree granting institution. Instead, it will rely on existing accredited campuses in the UT system and the Board of Regents system for degrees and programs.

“I would hope to see New College work with the Board of Regents and the UT campuses to create an entirely new general studies degree for adults, perhaps named the ‘Tennessee Bachelor of Arts,’ designed for working adults and offered by several universities in each system,” Gilley said.

State Board of Regents Chancellor Charles Manning said such a cooperative effort could benefit Tennessee higher education.

“As the Tennessee Board of Regents continues its development of more online, Web-based degrees, we welcome the opportunity to cooperate with the University of Tennessee on a statewide baccalaureate degree,” Manning said. “Such a degree will enhance the educational opportunities for all Tennesseans.”

Gilley last week recommended and the university-s Board of Trustees appointed Vice President Sammie Lynn Puett as the first chancellor of New College.

“Sammie Lynn Puett has many years of successful executive level experience to bring to the position,” Gilley said. “We are pleased that she has accepted the challenge of this new position.”

He said that Puett-s continuing education division had recently won a $1.3 million federal contract to assist Tennessee two- and four-year colleges develop online associate and bachelor degrees in information technology.

Gilley also named a 20-member advisory committee of educators, business and industry leaders, and state government officials to make recommendations on program priorities and strategic directions for New College.

Allen Edwards, president of Pellissippi State Technical Community College, will chair the group. Members include the presidents or their designees from four other Board of Regents institutions, State Education Commissioner Vernon Coffey, State Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Mike Magill and Deputy Commissioner Alex Fischer of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

“Our goal with New College is to develop a culture that emphasizes commitment to excellence, service to students, excitement for learning, and an entrepreneurial spirit that constantly seeks new and more effective ways to engage both students and faculty in the teaching-learning process,” Puett said.

“New College will work cooperatively with the Tennessee Board of Regents schools to create pathways to educational programs that take advantage of existing academic strengths and eliminate duplication where possible.”

The advisory committee will meet Sept. 15 to begin setting a timeline for development of New College, Puett said.