OHSU Board Considers School's Role in the Big Picture

Tuition at the School of Dentistry will increase by 13.5 percent, while the Schools of Nursing and Medicine will see more modest increases

June 27, 2012 -- OHSU's board of directors voted Wednesday to approve a budget for fiscal year 2012 that assumes slowing revenue growth, increased patient activity and decreased Medicaid funding – but not before engaging in a discussion with the school's provost, Dr. Jeanette Mladenovic about the school's role in higher education reform.

Noting that while OHSU was ranked number 11 in social medicine and number 19 in research by the Annals of Internal Medicine, Mladenovic also stated that OHSU is one of the most expensive public medical schools in the country – a fact that may be keeping students from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as rural students or those from underrepresented minorities, from being able to attend the school.

“We have become much more tuition-dependent than state schools have in the past,” Mladenovic said, while noting that other public medical schools on the West Coast – those most likely to compete for
OHSU's students – still have comparable, if lower, tuition rates.

Mladenovic's presentation also addressed whether the school's programs are meeting the needs of the state and region. She quoted research indicating that Oregon will likely need 325 new doctors per year in coming years, whereas OHSU only graduates 102 new doctors every year – about half of whom choose to practice in Oregon. With dentistry, the situation is somewhat reversed: OHSU's School of Dentistry graduates 92 new dentists per year, but the state only needs 77 new dentists.

However, Mladenovic noted, several states nearby don't have dental schools and may in fact be experiencing a shortage – so the school should, when considering applications from out-of-state students, give special consideration to those from states with a greater need for dental care.

Admitting more out of state students was a recurring theme in Mladenovic's presentation – partly because the school will benefit from the tuition differential, and also because it may be easier to recruit underrepresented racial minorities from out of state.

Board member Roman Hernandez thought it would be possible to diversify OHSU's student body while maintaining an emphasis on admitting students from within Oregon.

Mladenovic, who is working with the Oregon Educational Investment Board to coordinate the school's efforts with other educational institutions across the state – since flagging graduation rates affect postgraduate education as well – said some pipeline programs designed to encourage minority participation in the sciences can be almost too successful.

“We work really hard, in these incredible pipeline programs, and then they get snatched from us,” choosing to attend college or postgraduate programs out-of-state, Mladenovic said.

The budget adopted by the board will increase tuition at the School of Medicine by 4 percent. Tuition in the School of Nursing will increase between 1 and 3 percent depending on the program, and tuition in the School of Dentistry will climb by 13.5 percent, a jump attributed to construction costs for the Collaborative Life Sciences Building, which will be the School of Dentistry's new home. The total budget for the school's operations will by $2.085 billion, with a projected rate of revenue growth at 3 percent versus the 6 percent growth rate over the past six years.

Dr. Joe Robertson, OHSU’s president, also discussed the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. While Oregon may be affected by the Court's decision, Robertson said that healthcare transformation will continue at a state level and OHSU will definitely participate.

“The eyes of the country and the eyes of the world will be upon us,” Robertston said.

Even if the individual mandate is struck down, providing universal health care is a must -- something OHSU has supported in the past and will continue to support, both because of the cost savings and the improved health outcomes that will result.

“At some point we will get there, even if this law is struck down,” Robertson said.


To read the press release by OHSU about its 2012 budget, click here.

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