JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Enrollment at East Tennessee State University’s Gatton College of Pharmacy has fallen steadily over the past two years, and an administrator expressed concern during a finance meeting on Wednesday.
ETSU Chief Financial Officer BJ King reviewed the budget data at a meeting of the Board’s Finance and Administration Committee which also included a decision to leave tuition and fees undergraduate 2022-23 at the same rate as this year.
After going through ETSU’s main budget and those of the College of Medicine and Family Medicine (ETSU Physicians), all with increases, King arrived at the pharmacy school budget. The college is self-sufficient, having been licensed by the state on the condition that it operates essentially as a private entity.
After starting the current fiscal year with a base budget of $9.6 million, the projection for 2022-23 is $8.3 million. Education, by far the biggest item, goes from $6.5 million to $5.8 million.
“We’re writing the revenue budget for next year based on declining enrollment,” King said.
“We talked about … the tuition impacts for the college versus the other public college in the state of Tennessee for pharmacy, so that has a bit of an impact. We hope this will be rectified in the future.
King was referring to a decision several years ago that allowed the public school of pharmacy in Memphis to offer in-state classes to students from outside Tennessee.
Data provided by ETSU on Wednesday afternoon showed that after years of steady enrollment, the number of students at Gatton has fallen over the past two years – from 315 in 2019 to 281 in 2020 and then from 281 to 259 this school year.
“Most expense categories experience a corresponding reduction with declining income,” King said. She said a handful of faculty positions that were vacant are being eliminated for the time being, reducing the school’s faculty complement from 35 to 30.
“It’s consistent with declining enrollment but…there has been no faculty turnover.”
Administrator Steve DeCarlo, who chairs the finance committee, expressed concern near the end of the short meeting.
“I continue to worry about the College of Pharmacy, I know you do too, but the downsides really seem to show up more and more in the numbers,” DeCarlo said.
ETSU President Brian Noland said the administration is doing everything it can to try to convince the state to provide additional assistance.
“Mr. Speaker, we continue to work with members of our legislative delegation to highlight the importance that funding Gatton could have not only on the bottom line, but more importantly on affordability for students,” said Noland: “I hope to be able to provide further updates to our board at our April meeting.”
Reached by phone after the meeting, State Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville) said his colleague Gary Hicks of Hawkins County, chairman of the House Budget Subcommittee, had introduced a budget amendment that would provide public funds to bridge the tuition gap between Memphis and ETSU.
“I support a solution to this problem,” Hawk said, adding that it would likely cost several million dollars.