(BIVN) – Officials with the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy appeared before a joint State Senate committee on Friday, where they discussed declining enrollment even as a new, $31-million college building was opened in December.
The Senate Ways & Means and Higher Education committees spent the day questioning UH officials on a variety of topics, including the future of the Hilo-based pharmacy college.
“Enrollment has gone down. Our entering class this year was substantially lower than the ones before,” said UH-Hilo chancellor Bonnie Irwin, sitting beside DKICP Dean Carolyn Ma. “As you know, there has been an explosion of pharmacy programs across the U.S.”
“In California alone, they have doubled the number of pharmacy schools in the last 20 years. Of course, California is one of the places where we often recruit students for all of our programs at the University of Hawaiʻi, so that’s been an issue,” Irwin said. “In 25 years, the number of pharmacy schools is grown by 70% across the country so the terrain has gotten more competitive. So we have put increased effort into marketing.”
Irwin says they have also been doing some work to “right-size” the program.
“We are talking to experts in the field across the country, working with our faculty and thinking about what is the appropriate size for the college,” Irwin said, “trimming the budget accordingly to get to so revenue and expenses stay in balance.”
“The other thing we’re doing is looking taking a hard look at the curriculum, to update the curriculum to make it even more relevant,” Irwin added. “We have some niche areas that I think we excel at. One is rural health care on Hawaiʻi Island. Obviously, that is a great concern. And the other is integrated healthcare. So you’ll find that our pharmacists work hand-in-hand with nurses, doctors.”
State Senator Donna Mercado Kim said she is glad to hear UH-Hilo is looking at right-sizing the pharmacy program. “As you said, there have been an explosion of pharmacy schools now,” Sen. Kim said. “We should have anticipated that before we, you know, decide we’re going to put in all this money, all this time, all this effort into a program.”
“I doubt that just having a new building is gonna attract a student to Hilo,” Sen. Kim said.
“It won’t be the cure for everything, absolutely,” Chancellor Irwin agreed.