JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — In-state students at East Tennessee State University’s Gatton College of Pharmacy will pay about $66,000 less for their degrees than previous students after the school’s board of trustees voted Friday to lower tuition by 30%.

The vote came weeks after the Tennessee General Assembly approved $2.5 million in annual recurring funding for the college, which has up to now been completely privately funded.

In-state students will pay $27,000 in tuition next school year, down from $38,264, while out-of-state students will see a decrease to $33,000 from $38,674. First-year in-state students will actually pay just $22,000, as ETSU also reserved funds for $5,000 scholarships that will cover each class by the end of four years when the incoming class graduates.

ETSU President Brian Noland said Friday’s decision meant a “long journey” had landed. He credited area legislators Gary Hicks, Tim Hicks and Rebecca Alexander (all state representatives) and Rusty Crowe and Jon Lundberg (state senators) for being “tireless advocates for this.”

Noland said the Gatton graduates he met recently are leaving in very different financial positions than the class that will enter this fall and those coming after it.

“The impact that this has on those students’ abilities to then open pharmacies in rural communities, we won’t see the ripple impacts of this for a while, but it was a historic day for Gatton College of Pharmacy,” Noland said.

The tuition decreases use about $1.5 million of the funds, while another $720,000 is reserved for the $5,000 scholarships. The effort to secure state funding began about four years ago following a state supplement to the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center pharmacy school in Memphis that allowed the only other state-funded pharmacy school to significantly reduce tuition.

That changed the calculus on which Gatton was founded and was followed by a steady enrollment decline.

“We’re confident that this will have the ability to impact our enrollment,” Noland said. “One of the elements that is contained within the scholarship proposal that was approved by the board is, above and beyond the $5,000 base adjustment for all Tennessee students in the (first year) class, the dean will then have the latitude to customize scholarships to maximize the enrollment impact.”

Including scholarships, the cost of completing pharmacy school for a Tennessee resident at Gatton College of Pharmacy is decreasing by more than $65,000. (WJHL photo)

Noland said some potential 2023-24 first-year students are still making up their minds about whether to attend Gatton.

“We’re hopeful now that as those prospective students and families learn about the price reset at Gatton that that may reset their college choice decision,” he said.

He also said the addition of state funding changes other elements of Gatton’s model. Previously, ongoing maintenance, building improvements and repairs fell to the school itself. Now, Noland said, those can be funded by the state similarly to improvements and maintenance at ETSU’s medical school.