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UTEP Pharmacy School sees spike in tuition, 48 percent increase over next two years

The University of Texas at El Paso enrolled its first stand-alone Pharmacy school in the fall of 2017, and less than a year later, students are seeing a drastic change in tuition.

On Monday, the University of Texas System Board of Regents approved two-year tuition increases submitted by all academic UT institutions to provide them with “critically needed revenue to boost student success.”

Institutions that requested higher-percentage increases included UTEP, UT Permian Basin and UT Tyler, which had tuition rates lower than $4,000 per semester, making them the most affordable in Texas. Tuition is being increased for undergraduate majors, graduate majors and resident pharmacy students.

The original rate of tuition at UTEP’s School of Pharmacy was $11,308 for 40 semester credit hours per year. A proposal considered by the UT Board of Regents on Monday, said the tuition would go up by more than $4,000 for the fall 2018 semester, and then would settle at $16,726 in the fall 2019 semester.

“(The original) tuition was below what was necessary to sustain the school to increase the quality of our programs,” UTEP School of Pharmacy Dean Jose Rivera said.

Compared to other eight schools in the UT system, UTEP ranks the second lowest.

“To me, you don’t necessarily want to be the lowest because we want to have high quality,” Rivera said. “We are comfortable with the tuition we have received approval to implement.”

Tuition for the pharmacy degree program will be increased by 48 percent over the next two years, which is higher than any other increase at UTEP.

“The return of investment on the pharmacy degree is worth it,” Rivera said. “If you add the four years between tuition, fees and other costs they may be spending around $70,000 for the four year program, but the average salary in El Paso is about $125,000 a year, which you can see is a very good investment.”

The new net revenue generated as a result of the proposed increases is estimated to be $10.1 million in fiscal year 2019 and $10.5 million in fiscal year 2020. The Board of Regents claims that the additional revenue will be allocated to key institutional priorities: student success (20 percent of new net revenue), student support (10 percent of new net revenue), and faculty recruitment, retention and excellence (70 percent of new net revenue).

The dean echoed the sentiment of the system by saying the increase is to help sustain the school and increase the quality of programs, teaching, faculty and facilities.

“We need to hire additional staff. Again, when you start the program you hire so many people but once you start adding more students, we need to increase our faculty size, our staff size, and we need to continue improving our facilities that we operate under,” Rivera said.

Rivera said the pharmacology program talked with the students prior to the decision.

“We have talked to our students about this and they understand it,” Rivera said. “If you want quality you can’t have the lowest necessarily, so we are the second lowest in the state.

ABC-7 spoke with two students who don’t have an issue with the increase. “We are going to look for the best instructors to be able to be up there as a great pharmacist school compared to others,” one student said. “If your instructors don’t know what they are doing then you don’t know what you are doing,” she said. “Having great instructors gives us better knowledge of the program.”

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