JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – City leaders and state lawmakers are pledging their support to help East Tennessee State University’s pharmacy college, which in recent years, has seen a decline in enrollment.
The Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy is a tuition-funded college that bear’s the university’s name, but it doesn’t get any state funding. ETSU’s hoping to change that to help cut down on tuition costs and to increase enrollment that’s recently declined.
Thursday evening, Johnson City leaders said they support the university’s push to get state money through the approval of a resolution.
“I’m just so grateful to this community, to the Johnson City Commission, we wouldn’t have a College of Pharmacy if not for this community,” Dean of Gatton College of Pharmacy Dr. Debbie Byrd said. “This continued support really does mean a lot to us.”
The matter of funding falls into state lawmakers’ hands. Local lawmakers said they are ready to throw their full support behind it.
“We’re going to go see the governor and push for it that way,” John B. Holsclaw, Jr. (R- Elizabethton) said. “As many ways as we can.”
“What we’re doing is going to fight to get that money,” John Crawford (R-Bristol/Kingsport) said. “We’re kind of behind the eight ball now because the other schools are receiving that, and we’re just asking to be treated exactly the same.”
Lawmakers see the educational institution as an asset they’re not ready to lose, although enrollment numbers have declined over recent years.
“What we’ve seen with our pharmacy school is those students from here are going here, graduating and staying here,” Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) said. “And also going to some of those rural areas in Tennessee, so it’s a great mission.”
According to Johnson City’s resolution, state support would allow the college to reduce the cost of tuition by 42%.
“If tuition is lowered and access is increased then we could have more students that choose to enroll and earn that degree,” Dr. Byrd said. “Have more pharmacists to take care of the folks in the area.”
A previous push in the state house this past spring led by Rep. Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville) to get state money for the privately-funded school was unsuccessful.