Dave Forbes, Dean of the University of Montana’s School of Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences, says that at times he feels like he is running a “quasi-private school sitting amid a large public university.” And when graduate students of physical therapy and pharmacy compare tuition bills with their colleagues in other schools at the university, they might be inclined to agree.
In addition to the in-state base tuition of $3,286.90 per year paid by graduate students at UM, health science students pay what they call “super tuition”—$3,600 per year for the 221 pharmacy students and about $4,000 for the 62 physical therapy students. This money goes directly to their professional program and cannot be touched by the rest of the university system. Dean Forbes credits what is known as the “tuition surcharge” with his school’s ability to raise money to “hire additional full-time, permanent faculty to meet national accreditation standards.”
As Forbes, who took over as dean in 1988, notes, “In 1986, not without some controversy, a surcharge was added to high-cost programs, which is largely responsible for keeping these programs on campus. One school that decided against the surcharge, and was subsequently cut in 1989, was the Communications Sciences and Disorders, a unique program that was the only one of its kind in the state, leaving a void for this kind of training in the state of Montana which still exists today.”
Forbes admits that most other pharmacy and physical therapy schools do not ask students to pay a tuition surcharge, but this has become standard practice at UM. “The trend we have seen is one of state funding going down and students paying more of the cost,” he says.
This additional financial burden is somewhat easier to justify, he adds, because educating pharmacists and physical therapists is a good investment. “They both earn fine salaries when they graduate, and so paying off the additional loan amount shouldn’t be as much of a burden as someone starting off in another field.”
Similarly, UM Law School charges $121 per credit in addition to the base tuition, which raises the possibility that we may one day see what amount to semi-private schools within Montana’s public university system. And it also begs the question: To whom will the high-grossing alumni be true—the school that gave them their professional degree or the large public facility sitting next to it?