The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Advisory Board met virtually Wednesday for its last meeting of 2021, receiving a condensed look at UTHSC Chancellor Steve Schwab’s 2021 State of the University Address and an overview of the numbers behind the university’s anticipated tuition recommendation for FY 2023.
Anthony Ferrara, CPA, MAS, senior vice chancellor for finance and chief financial officer for UTHSC, said the university has not increased tuition for the past four years and has been generally successful in bringing tuition across UTHSC’s six colleges in line with peer institutions. He said he anticipates coming to the board at its January meeting with a recommendation for no tuition increase in FY 2023.
Reprising his State of the University Address from October, the chancellor reported that enrollment has risen steadily, the university has a 95 percent graduation rate and first-attempt board pass rate, and the number of degrees awarded has grown.
He said the UTHSC College of Dentistry is working to relieve the shortage of dentists across the state, focusing on underserved rural areas. Advisory Board Chairman Phil Wenk, DDS, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee, said 16 counties in the state are considered “dental deserts” and three are without dentists.
“Our goal is to provide dentists who will practice in those areas and to provide care right now,” the chancellor said. The College of Dentistry is working to open four additional D4-staffed dental clinics for the rural underserved, as well as new clinics in the eastern part of the state. The college already operates similar clinics in Bristol, Chattanooga, and Union City. It is also working on a program of student loan forgiveness for graduates to encourage them to stay in the state and work in underserved areas, he said.
The chancellor talked about the university’s efforts to improve diversity and inclusion. Dr. Wenk encouraged the administration and deans to identify a plan to establish a pipeline of interested students as early as grade school and middle school, in order to increase the ranks of underrepresented minority students at UTHSC and in the health care workforce.
“I’d like to see us think about how we might address this,” he said. Deans from various colleges talked about mentoring efforts already underway designed to prepare students to attend UTHSC and encourage them to consider careers in health care.
“The fact that each of you are swinging at this is great, but we might be able to come up with a better answer if we all could swing together,” Dr. Wenk said.
Before adjourning, the board welcomed its student representative, Leah Burns, who is a 4th-year student in the College of Pharmacy and the president of the Student Government Association Executive Council.
The next meeting of the advisory board is set for January 12, 2022.
The advisory board meeting is available to view via webcast,