No tuition increases are currently planned for the 2022 academic year at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, according to a recommendation made Wednesday by Chancellor Steve Schwab, MD, to the UTHSC Advisory Board.
In its first meeting of the year, held virtually via Zoom, the board approved the university’s tuition recommendation, which will now go to the UT Board of Trustees during its February meeting.
“It has been a difficult year for health care, but we have gotten through reasonably well, with increased efficiency and belt-tightening,” Chancellor Schwab said. The pandemic has increased operating costs, while reducing revenue, he said. However, the university anticipates restoration of annual increases in operating funds in the new state budget. These operating fund increases were included in last year’s state budget, but were removed in response to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our goal is not to increase our students’ costs.”
The board approved a proposed $8,640 reduction in the out-of-state tuition in the College of Medicine from its current rate of $60,490 to $51,850. This would be the second reduction in out-of-state tuition in as many years, in order to bring tuition for out-of-state students to 150% of the tuition rate for in-state students as a way expand the pool of applicants and keep the tuition in line with other similar institutions.
Proposed increases in fees in two colleges were approved by the board for the coming year to meet the costs of clinical program delivery. The Dentistry Clinic Utilization Fee would increase by $1,600 per year. The current fee is $3,200 per year, and with the increase would total $4,800.
“We never like to add to student obligations, but this is directly related to operations,” James Ragain, DDS, MS, PhD, FICD, FACD, dean of the UTHSC College of Dentistry, told the board.
He said the pre-doctoral clinic in the Dunn Dental Building on the Memphis campus, which trains dental students, offers services to the community, and is the largest clinic in the college, costs more to operate than it brings in. COVID-19-related safety expenses have also increased operating costs.
“We’re very aware of keeping prices low,” said Advisory Board President Phil Wenk, DDS, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee and a UTHSC College of Dentistry alumnus.
He asked dental student Sonali Demla, the student representative on the advisory board, her thoughts on the proposed fee increase. She said she is not opposed to the increase. “I think this is a decision we have to make,” she said.
The College of Nursing also proposed a $115 per year Nursing DNP Digital Materials Fee. This fee would add to the current $40 Digital Materials Fee, for a total of $155 per year.
The College of Health Professions was given the spotlight, with Dean Stephen Alway, PhD, reporting on achievements and plans for the future.
Dean Alway told the board that since joining UTHSC in December 2017, his focus has been on elevating research, growing the student body and increasing diversity, and raising the national visibility of the college.
He said the college has established a new Diagnostic and Health Sciences Department, merging the Departments of Clinical Laboratory Sciences and Health Informatics and Information Management. A new Division of Research has been set up to expand the college’s research efforts and encourage interdepartmental collaboration. A new Center for Muscle, Metabolism and Neuropathology has also been established.
Dr. Alway said plans include a human performance laboratory, several new program offerings, and collaborations with other institutions and community colleges to make the college’s programs accessible to more potential students.
The board was given an update on the former UT Conference Center in Knoxville, which will become the new home of the college’s Audiology and Speech Pathology Department, currently housed on the Knoxville campus. Ashley Harkrider, PhD, professor and chair of the department, said renovations are moving toward completion on the space in the building for her department. She anticipates moving academic and support offices later this spring, and clinical operations possibly in late spring or early summer.
Chancellor Schwab said plans are developing for the building to eventually also house other UTHSC clinical programs, including dental, occupational therapy, and physical therapy clinics. “Our goal is to turn it into the UTHSC clinical training center” for the eastern side of the state, he said.
The advisory board meeting is available to view via webcast.