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Advisory Board Approves FY 2025 Budget Proposal

Raaj Kurapati, executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer, presented the FY 2025 budget proposal to the Advisory Board Friday.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Advisory Board Friday unanimously approved a budget proposal for FY 2025 that includes an operating budget of $696.4 million, a 3% across-the-board state-funded pay raise for faculty and staff, and no increase in mandatory student fees

The budget proposal, which now goes to the UT Board of Trustees for consideration and approval, also includes the 2.9% across-the-board tuition increase approved by the Advisory Board in a special meeting March 22. The proposed tuition increase is well under the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s recommended binding tuition rate ceiling of 5.5%. The recommended tuition rate for academic year 24-25 leaves tuition remaining less than most peer institutions in the region.

One piece of a long-range financial strategy to ensure a balanced budget for the university, it is expected to yield additional funding of between $750,000 and $1.2 million, depending on enrollment. Most of the funds realized from the tuition increase will go toward student support, including increased scholarships.

In presenting the proposal, Raaj Kurapati, AIFA, executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer, outlined four goals for the university’s budget strategy. They are to build transparency around finances, establish an engaging and collaborative budget process, balance the budget, and invest in the university’s future.

He said a new Planning and Budget Council (PBC), composed of representatives from across the university, recommended several actions to balance the budget, including a 3.5% internal budget realignment and implementation of operational efficiencies, along with the tuition increase.

Kurapati said the budget is inspired by the university’s 2023-2028 Strategic Plan, allowing for an increase in funding for need-based scholarships and a “healthy investment” in facilities.

“I think it’s been well thought out,” said Phil Wenk, DDS, board chairman. He asked members of the Planning and Budget Council at the meeting whether the process of planning the budget was transparent, open, and well done.

“This was probably the most collaborative process we’ve had,” said Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, dean of the College of Nursing and a member of the PBC. 

“I commend you,” Dr. Wenk told Kurapati and the committee. “I know the way it was done before is entirely different than the way you are trying to do it now.”

Prior to the budget discussion, Vice Chancellor for Advancement Brigitte Grant, MBA, offered a recap of the fourth-annual Giving Day, a 24-hour campaign to raise funds to support the university and its vision and missions. This year’s event, held April 23, surpassed the donor goal of 1,000 with 1,155 donors giving $664,850. Grant and Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD, thanked the members of the Advisory Board for their participation in the event.

“Your 100% participation in Giving Day is extremely appreciated,” Grant said. The board members set the stage for others to give and reflected the event themes of “partnership, collaboration, and a culture of philanthropy,” she said.

David Mills, director of Government Relations for UT Health Science Center, offered a summary of the recent legislative session. The university is grateful to have received $29.6 million for upgrades to the Anatomy Lab on the Memphis campus, he said. The leadership and stellar advocacy of UT President Randy Boyd; Carey Whitworth, vice president of Government Relations and Advocacy for the UT System; Mills; and the entire UT Government Affairs team was also acknowledged with gratitude. 

Terri Finkel, MD, told the board about a legislative victory that will mean earlier diagnosis for newborns with rare diseases.

Additionally, Terri Finkel, MD, PhD, professor and associate chair in the Department of Pediatrics at UT Health Science Center and vice chair of Clinical Affairs at Methodist Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, addressed the board about Senate Bill 1762, which she championed along with Mills, and with the support of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare leadership, including Le Bonheur President Trey Eubanks, MD, who attended the meeting. 

The bill, which passed both houses and is soon to be signed into law, requires TennCare coverage of rapid whole genome sequencing of newborns when certain criteria are met. Tennessee joins a handful of states with this coverage, which Dr. Finkel said gives physicians the power to diagnose babies sooner and eliminates the pain and suffering of months and years of testing to get a diagnosis. “This is truly remarkable,” she said. “It would not have been possible without the support of leadership” at the university and the hospital.

Outgoing members of the board were recognized for their service. Richard Smith, PhD, associate professor and graduate program director in the College of Medicine, was recognized for his service as a Faculty Senate representative on the board and for his 41-year career at UT Health Science Center. “It’s been an honor to be on the board,” Dr. Smith said. “It’s been a great career.”

Also recognized was Corinne Gibson, the student representative, who is graduating from the College of Medicine today. “I had an opportunity to go somewhere else, but chose to come here,” she said. “I really think this is the best place to grow over four years. I really feel prepared.”

The full advisory board special meeting is available to view on the UT Health Science Center Advisory Board webpage.