Expanded Regional Tuition Program Opens College of Pharmacy to More Students

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Margarita Pate, left, and Rebecca Wahrmund said the recent expansion of the regional tuition program means they can attend the UTHSC College of Pharmacy. (Photo by Peggy Reisser/UTHSC)

Rebecca Wahrmund of Morrilton, Arkansas, had reluctantly decided that the College of Pharmacy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center was out of her reach financially. Though UTHSC was her first choice, she was all set to attend another institution to get her pharmacy degree.

However, a new financial incentive introduced last spring allowed her to reconsider that decision. The 22-year-old is now a proud member of the Class of 2021 in the UTHSC College of Pharmacy.

“I was super excited to be able to come here, my Number 1 choice,” Wahrmund said. “It ended up being a more feasible option than the one I had originally chosen.”

Effective for the fall 2017 class, the College of Pharmacy expanded its regional tuition rate program to pharmacy students living out of state within a 200-mile radius of the college’s instructional sites in Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville.

That meant Wahrmund, whose hometown is about 50 miles northwest of Little Rock, qualified. “That did play a big role in getting me here,” she said.

The highest-ranked pharmacy school in Tennessee and ranked number 17 in the country by U.S. News & World Report, UTHSC’s College of Pharmacy is now more accessible to students, like Wahrmund, from parts of 13 surrounding states. They pay only 25 percent of the differential between in-state and out-of-state tuition.

Margarita Pate of Athens, Georgia, had already decided to attend UTHSC, after entrance interviews at three southern schools. “I chose UTHSC because I felt like it was a warmer environment,” said the 23-year-old considering a career in nuclear pharmacy. “I loved the people right off the bat.”

When she found out she qualified for the tuition reduction, she knew she had made the right decision. “It was like an early Christmas present,” she said.

“We want to expand our access as we continue to recruit the best and brightest students possible,” said Dean Marie Chisholm-Burns, PharmD, MPH, MBA, FCCP, FASHP, FAST. “It is also of highest importance to continue our commitment to diversity and inclusivity, and we must maintain and increase diversity in our student body. This tuition program allows us to enter cities that have diverse populations of potential students from all walks of life who we want to become part of the future of health care. We believe this program will help us reach them.”

Out-of-state students currently pay approximately $42,000 annually in tuition. With the regional out-of-state tuition discount, they will pay approximately $27,000 annually in tuition.

UTHSC’s College of Pharmacy already is the lowest-priced option for students in Tennessee. The expanded regional tuition program is available to all eligible current students and new enrollees from major cities, including Atlanta, Georgia; Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky; Jackson and Oxford, Mississippi; Birmingham, Alabama; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Charlotte, North Carolina.

In June 2014, the UT Board of Trustees approved a regional tuition rate for pharmacy students living outside Tennessee, but within 50 miles of Memphis. Since that program began, the number of applications from the region continues to rise. Based on that success, the board approved expanding the program’s radius to 200 miles.

Careers in pharmacy ranked in the top five of highest paying jobs in the United States, according to Inc.com. Demand for pharmacists has increased significantly over the last decade, and is expected to continue, due to an aging population and expansion of professional services.

“Investing in your future has never been so affordable,” Dean Chisholm-Burns said.

That is exactly what Wahrmund is doing. She hopes to become a clinical pharmacist working in a hospital setting.

“What originally drew me to this institution was the fact that it is very well respected among other pharmacy schools in the nation,” she said. “And being that I want to do clinical pharmacy, it is also one of the top pharmacy schools to get their students into a residency position after the four years of school.”

UTHSC’s Pharmacy Dean Marie Chisholm-Burns is committed to ensuring that student pharmacists are able to attend an institution that is affordable and offers a life-changing education. Now, out-of-state students residing within 200 miles of the College of Pharmacy’s instructional sites in Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville qualify for the regional tuition program.