The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Advisory Board Wednesday unanimously approved the university’s proposed operating budget of $633.8 million for FY 2022.
While the budget holds tuition steady, it proposes raising the minimum wage at the university to $16 an hour and includes $5.2 million in infrastructure support. It will go to the UT Board of Trustees when the group meets on the UTHSC campus in June.
In its second meeting for 2021, held virtually via Zoom, the advisory board heard an update from Chancellor Steve Schwab, MD, about recent accomplishments by the university, as well as the status of the coronavirus response, and the plans for a phased return to an in-person campus for the fall semester.
“We feel this has been a very successful year,” the chancellor said. He mentioned rising research grant awards, excellent academic performance across the six colleges, new programs designed to address health care needs locally and statewide, and significant construction completed with the Historic Quadrangle remodel, and underway with the new Delta Dental of Tennessee Building.
Chancellor Schwab said UTHSC continues to lead in the response to the pandemic, including in research, testing, and vaccine distribution. He said in-person graduation ceremonies, being held for the first time in a year, are proceeding smoothly with COVID-19 protocols.
Additionally, he said the return to campus will employ safety protocols, including required vaccine status reporting, vaccination encouraged but not mandated, and continued masking guidelines.
“I think in the presence of COVID, you and your entire staff deserve kudos for what you have accomplished,” said Phil Wenk, DDS, chair of the advisory board.
The board heard presentations on new programs in the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy that are designed to bolster the ranks of much-needed providers locally and across the state, and at the same time, reduce costs to some students pursuing degrees in those colleges.
College of Medicine Executive Dean Scott Strome, MD, detailed the college’s new Primary Care Pathway, which allows students committed to practicing in primary care fields to complete their medical education and training in three years. The college is currently recruiting its first cohort of up to 10 students to begin this fall. Dean Strome said the program allows the College of Medicine to help relieve the critical shortage of primary care physicians in the state, particularly in rural areas. It is hoped the program encourages graduates to remain in Tennessee to practice. It is intended to make a medical degree accessible to more students by decreasing tuition costs, he said.
College of Nursing Dean Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, APRN-Bc, FAANP, reported on the college’s successful accelerated 12-month BSN program, which now has two admission cycles annually. The first cohort graduated with a 100% NCLEX Board (licensure) pass rate, well above the national average, Dr. Likes said.
College of Pharmacy Dean Marie Chisholm-Burns, PharmD, MPH, MBA, FCCP, FASHP, FAST, talked about the college’s new Immersive PharmD Accelerated Track (ImPAct) Pathway, a three-year program toward a PharmD degree that will be offered to 10 to 25 students this fall. She said the program aligns with the college’s core values of being accessible, futuristic, and dedicated to quality improvement. The program will attract students who want to graduate sooner, reach a broader pool of applicants, and as with the other accelerated programs, cut costs for students.
“This program, I think, is exciting,” said board member Natalie Tate, PharmD, MBA, an alumna of the college.
In presenting the proposed budget to the board, Anthony A. Ferrara, CPA, MAS, UTHSC’s senior vice chancellor for Finance, chief financial officer, and the secretary for the board, pointed out that the university received a more than $14.8 million increase in state funding for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
This includes funds allowing for up to a 4% raise for faculty and staff. The state restored the annual operating funds that were removed as a recurring item five years ago, amounting to a $5.1 million addition to the university’s budget. Funds to renovate a new location for the Campus Police Department, to finish renovations to the Nash Building, for capital maintenance projects, and approximately $3 million for primary care Graduate Medical Education were also included. University leaders expressed gratitude for the funding increase that will benefit students, as well as faculty and staff.
“This year, we have an outstanding year from the state,” Chancellor Schwab said. “We’ve had three neutral years, but this was a very strong budget.” He said the additional state funds allow the university to freeze tuition to keep the costs down for students.
Prior to closing the meeting, the board welcomed Leah Burns, a PharmD/MBA student from the College of Pharmacy, who is the incoming student representative. Members thanked Dentistry student Sonali Demla, who is completing her year as the student representative to the board
The next meeting of the board is set for August 11. Wednesday’s advisory board meeting is available to view via webcast.