JABSOM Faces Funding Challenge, will strive to find additional resources beyond tuition

A bill allowing the John A. Burns School of Medicine to use all of the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement funds the state has allocated to the school failed to make it to a vote — along with several other key measures — as of Friday, April 29’s legislative “decking” deadline.

The JABSOM measure appeared to have support in both houses, but the conference committees deadlocked over a different bill, one the House of Representatives supported to tax pension income over $200,000. The Senate firmly opposed any pension tax.

The JABSOM bill involves $3-$4 million annually which the school needs to continue to increase the MD class size, establish a residency on the Big Island and other efforts, including extensive tobacco cessation activities by the school’s medical students, faculty physicians and public health professionals. The authorization for JABSOM to use the money expires on June 30, 2011. In February, medical students traveled to the Capitol to speak with lawmakers about JABSOM’s role in the community, to appear at a legislative hearing and to ask for continued support for the school.

Earlier in the day on Friday, House-Senate negotiators with the Higher Education and Health Committees had agreed to lessen JABSOM’s tobacco money by 1% a year in 2014 and 2015. But then the final negotiating sessions involving the money committees collapsed before 10 p.m., even though the deadline wasn’t until 12 midnight.

The “decking” deadline is the Hawai’i State Legislature’s own deadline for positioning bills for final approval on May 3 and May 5, when the last floor sessions are scheduled.

JABSOM hopes lawmakers will consider restoring the funding early in next year’s legislative session. In the meantime, Dean Jerris Hedges said, “I am going to be working with the UH Manoa Chancellor and UH President to make modifications in the medical school.  It will probably take a few months to reach the level of the UH Board of Regents, but we are going to move ahead and make adjustments.”

Unfortunately, those adjustments could include raising tuition, and altering the ratio of in-state versus out-of-state students admitted into JABSOM.  The school has prided itself in following the dream of former Governor John Burns to provide the maximum opportunity to students from Hawai’i and the Pacific. Ninety percent of JABSOM’s current MD students are from Hawai’i.

Should tuition increase, it could be a bitter pill for local families to swallow. According to a new report by the American Association of Medical Colleges, the parents of JABSOM students have the lowest incomes of any U.S. medical school, at an annual $85,000 per year.  In 2011-2012, in-state tuition at JABSOM  is $29,184 per year.

Tuition increases at UH are decided by the Board of Regents, a process that includes notice and public hearings before implementation. JABSOM would anticipate that no increase of tuition is expected to be above 10%. Many JABSOM students receive financial aid and scholarships. The school said its already vigorous efforts to increase scholarship opportunities will be intensified in the anticipation of any tuition increase.

JABSOM, the Dean assured, will work tirelessly to continue to offer its students the best and most affordable education possible with what always has been generous support from our State, our University, and the citizens of Hawai’i.








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