When the Senate voted last week to restore $3 million to USF’s College of Pharmacy after proposing to slash its entire budget, many heralded it as a victory for USF.
Yet Pharmacy Dean Kevin Sneed said the $3 million budget is still highly debilitating.
“That would totally decimate everything we’ve been able to accomplish to this point,” he said. “We’re a brand new college starting out, trying to grow.”
The College of Pharmacy, established a year ago, was intended to be housed at USF Polytechnic. The Florida Legislature awarded $10 million last year for the construction of a Pharmacy building at the Lakeland campus and$6 million in recurring funds to start the program, which has 53 students.
Yet when a conforming bill put forth by Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, proposed to immediately sever Polytechnic from USF and create an independent12th university, the College of Pharmacy was returned to the USF System – without the $6 million used to fund it.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman and longtime Polytechnic separatist Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said during last week’s Senate meeting that the $3 million would be “more than adequate” for the College.
“A couple years ago, USF got the School of Pharmacy approved by the Board of Governors saying it would cost no additional state support, and quite frankly we had a bit of a discussion and ultimately appropriated $6 million for the potential support of theprogram ultimately at Polytech,” Alexander said. “In the interim, it has been operated and started in Tampa.”
Sneed, who met with the Legislature last year, said USF never expressed an intent to not use state support for the school, but remains hopeful that the budget will be restored further.
“In my mind, it’s a great beginning,” he said. “We’re very appreciative that Sen. Alexander was able to restore some of those cuts, (but) the Senate budget was just one part of a process. In the House budget, governor’s budget and Board of Governors’ budget we had no cuts.”
Sneed said the program intends to enroll between 70 to 75 more students next year and hire six to eight more faculty members. The 18 faculty members the school currently supports cost $4.2 million alone, leaving little to be spent on equipment and instructional support even if the $6 million were to be re-allocated. Alexander said student tuition could eventually lead the school to be self-sustaining and pointed to the University of Florida’s pharmacy school, which he said takes no state support and houses 1,754 students.
Yet UF’s pharmacy school, established in 1923, and Florida A&M University’s pharmacy school, established in 1951, are the only other public pharmacy schools in the state and are not comparable to USF’s year-old school, Sneed said.
“The comparisons of where they are in terms ofinfrastructure and culture is light-years away from where we are, so I choose not to look at that comparison,” he said. “I choose to look at what we are building and the new model of metropolitan health care. We’re not really building a program based on what anybody else is doing. We’re the new kid on the block and we intend to do great things.”
The conforming bill’s proposal to keep the school located at the Tampa campus is wise, Sneed said, as the facility is in close proximity to USF Health and local hospitals.
Yet first-year student Mary Munchalfen, who was told when applying to the program that there was a possibility of the campus moving to Lakeland, is still concerned about the cuts.
“I was a little concerned about us being targeted at first,” Munchalfen said. “It’s one thing to cut school budgets, but it’s another to target specific programs. I don’t know why they would target it. I think the cuts would affect the opportunities we’ve been granted and the incoming students being able to have those experiences.”
Sneed, who will present to the Board of Trustees tomorrow, said he has a positive outlook on the budget being further restored.
“I’ll let the process play out,” he said. “I’m pretty confident we’re going to communicate really well and remain positive. If it does occur, we’ll deal with it then. The program will be here. We’re not going anywhere, no matter what happens. We’ve gone too far down the road. We will find a way.”