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UTHSC Advisory Board Votes Not to Increase Tuition

Chancellor Peter Buckley, in the foreground, Chairman Philip Wenk, center, and Senior Vice Chancellor Anthony Ferrara engage in a discussion at Friday’s UTHSC Advisory Board meeting.

For the fourth straight year, tuition is expected not to increase for students at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

During the winter meeting of the UTHSC Advisory Board Friday, members voted unanimously in favor of keeping the current tuition rates, at the recommendation of Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD.

“This is not an organization that can be funded on the backs of the student cohort,” the chancellor told the board. “We also have to acknowledge that in the four years of 0% tuition increases, Americans and students experienced hard times in terms of the COVID pandemic. We will revisit this complex issue again over the coming years.”

Anthony Ferrara, CPA, MAS, senior vice chancellor for Finance and Administration, presented the tuition proposal for the 2024 financial year to the board. Elizabeth Evans, the board’s student representative, thanked him for his work on the proposal and for including the student body.

“He attended the Student Government Association Executive Council meeting and talked to all the student body representatives in each of the colleges,” Evans said. “He was very upfront with where we were going tuition-wise, and he was very open to hearing our thoughts and the needs of the students financially.”

Elizabeth Evans, the student representative on the UTHSC Advisory Board, spoke about her appreciation for the consideration of the student body in the decision not to increase tuition.

Ferrara pointed out that the tuition rate is pending Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed budget, which includes funding for education and operations at UTHSC, and is expected to be released in early February. “We reserve the right to go back and talk with the chancellor, Advisory Board Chairman Philip Wenk, and all of you potentially, if we believe the support isn’t there and if we need to do something to tuition rates,” Ferrara said to the board.

Included in Ferrara’s tuition proposal was a strategic expansion of the 50-mile regional tuition reduction to 250 miles for several programs, including the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, the Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene, the Master of Occupational Therapy, and the Doctor of Physical Therapy. Qualifying students will receive a 75% discount on the out-of-state tuition rate.

“We think this will help us reach out farther and grow our recruitment and student population with what, in the end, would be a revenue increase,” Ferrara said.

During Friday’s meeting, the board also unanimously approved the new UTHSC mission, vision, and values statements. Cindy Russell, PhD, vice chancellor for Academic, Faculty, and Student Affairs, presented the statements as part of an update on the university’s strategic planning process that is underway with 130 people in various workgroups currently looking at strategy and metric development. Chairman Wenk and Chancellor Buckley thanked Dr. Russell for her leadership in this impressive and inclusive process.

“Dr. Russell and her team have run a very thorough and engaging process,” Chancellor Buckley said. “Strategic planning doesn’t happen on its own, and she’s really driven this process. It’s been a very inclusive process, and the product so far is outstanding.”

Wenk introduced Charles Deal, PhD, interim vice chancellor for Advancement. After thanking his new colleagues, Dr. Deal presented an update on advancement operations as the search for a permanent vice chancellor is underway. He announced the university is $10 million short of the primary goal of $22.5 million in fundraising and philanthropic support in the current fiscal year, and he called for a change in the university’s culture to include philanthropy.

“Philanthropy needs to be at the center of every discussion we have on this campus, regardless of which college or department you’re in,” Dr. Deal said. “All of those dollars come back to the colleges or the different funds and make a difference in what the faculty and student experience is.” Dr Deal’s leadership and the support of UT Martin Chancellor Keith Carver in enabling Dr. Deal to lead at both campuses was acknowledged with gratitude. 

The deans of the six colleges each presented the board with their college’s latest initiatives and impressive accomplishments. Highlights included:

  • James Ragain, DDS, MS, PhD, FICD, FACD, dean of the College of Dentistry, gave an update on the Healthy Smiles initiative, which aims to improve dental care access statewide by increasing class sizes and faculty numbers and by adding new clinical training and rotation sites in Middle and East Tennessee. Dr. Ragain told the board the college’s new Delta Dental of Tennessee Building is expected to be completed by the end of the semester.
  • Donald Thomason, PhD, dean of the College of Graduate Health Sciences, updated the board on the college’s enrollment numbers, saying fewer international students enrolled due to travel restrictions during the pandemic. He also said students are getting degrees faster in recent years, with more than 90% of students receiving their degrees on time.
  • College of Health Professions Dean Stephen Alway, PhD, FACSM, spoke about the new pathologist’s assistant and occupational therapy classes that started this month. He told the board renovations on the UT Conference Center in Knoxville will provide a new space for the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology.
  • Dean Scott Strome told the board about the College of Medicine’s growth in its clinical departments. He gave updates on the recruitment process for the chairs of the Anesthesiology, Pathology, and Neurobiology departments, and he told the board the college’s Chattanooga campus received continued accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.
  • College of Nursing Dean Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, APRN-Bc, FAANP, spoke about the college’s 51 new accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing students (BSN) and 12 new traditional BSN students. She told the board about grants and honors the college’s faculty members recently received.
  • Two finalists for the College of Pharmacy’s open dean position visited the college in recent weeks, according to Christopher Finch, PharmD, FCCM, FCCP, chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Translational Science. Successful completion of the search is anticipated shortly.
Deans Donald Thomason, Stephen Alway, and Wendy Likes, and Dr. Cindy Russell listen to a presentation at the UTHSC Advisory Board meeting.

Chancellor Buckley also spoke to the board about the recent accomplishments of individuals in the UTHSC community, giving a nod to the university’s 10 Health Care Heroes recognized by the Memphis Business Journal, the two students who won prizes at the Three Minute Thesis competition, and the students, faculty, and staff members recently honored at the UTHSC Impact Awards.

The chancellor took a moment to honor Hershel “Pat” Wall, MD, former chancellor emeritus, who passed away last month after more than 50 years of service to UTHSC. “Whether you look professionally, whether you look at community involvement, or whether you look at the love and attributions of his family, this was, by any measure, a life very well lived,” Chancellor Buckley said.

Ferrara and Steven Goodman, PhD, were also acknowledged at the board meeting for their dedication and excellent service. Prior to the meeting, Ferrara informed the campus of his intent, after a long and successful career, to retire from UTHSC at the end of this academic year. Earlier in the week, Dr. Goodman announced he is stepping down as vice chancellor for Research. Wesley Byerly, PharmD, interim vice chancellor for Research, was introduced to the board and thanked for his selfless service in support of UTHSC.

The full advisory board meeting is available to view on the UTHSC Advisory Board webpage.