Higher ed board approves doctorate at Arkansas Tech, medical school at ASU

LITTLE ROCK — The state Higher Education Coordinating Board voted Friday to allow Arkansas Tech University in Russellville to offer a doctorate in education and approved a plan for creating an osteopathic medical school at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

Arkansas Tech’s Doctor of Education degree will be designed for K-12 education professionals who serve or wish to serve in school district leadership positions, the university said in a news release.

The new program will build upon the curriculum of the university’s’s existing Education Specialist degree, which requires 30 hours of course work beyond the master’s degree level. The first cohort of students accepted into the new program will begin their studies next summer.

“This is an historic moment in the life of Arkansas Tech University,” said John W. Watson, vice president for academic affairs at Arkansas Tech. “The opportunity to offer doctoral programs is a milestone in our continuing efforts to meet the educational needs of our constituents.”

The Higher Education Coordinating Board also voted Friday to grant the New York Institute of Technology certification for an osteopathic medical school on ASU’s Jonesboro campus.

Certification for three degrees — Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Master of Science in Medical/Health Care Simulation and Master of Science in Neuromusculoskeletal Sciences — is contingent on NYIT obtaining regional and national accreditation. NYIT and ASU officials will appear before the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation and present an application on Sept. 6 in Chicago.

“We appreciate the great cooperation of all of the parties involved in getting us to this point today,” state Department of Higher Education Director Shane Broadway said in a news release from ASU. “It has required a great deal of time and effort by our staff and that of Arkansas State, NYIT and the state Medical Board. We look forward to seeing great things with this partnership for our state.”

Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, vice president for health sciences and medical affairs at NYIT, said, “We look forward to our presentation to the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation in September. The purpose is to educate physicians in Arkansas and for Arkansas.”

NYIT’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York is now the largest single-site medical school in the country, according to the release.

The first students at the Jonesboro site would enroll in August 2016. The target class size would be 115 students.

“Collaborating with a nationally respected, well-established osteopathic medical school and dozens of partners in the mid-South medical community will enable us to address the shortage of primary care physicians in the underserved Delta,” said ASU Chancellor Tim Hudson. “We’re also proud that we can minimize the startup investment while maximizing the transformative impact on our university, community and state.”

The medical school has a projected startup cost of $10 million. ASU will invest $4 million to renovate and furnish Wilson Hall, and NYIT will invest $6 million for startup operating funds and faculty in the first three years.

Another osteopathic medical school is proposed for Fort Smith in western Arkansas at Chaffee Crossing. The proposed Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine will be funded privately with more than $60 million from the Fort Smith Regional Healthcare Foundation, the Degen Foundation, an anonymous gift of $14 million, 200 acres donated by the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority and funds held in escrow by Sparks Health System from the sale of the Sparks Regional Medical Center.

Dirtwork on the Fort Smith school is expected to begin in September with construction to start in February or March. Risley & Associates of Fort Smith has been selected as the lead architectural firm. Under the direction of President and CEO Kyle Parker and dean Dr. Kenneth Heiles, the college expects to accept its first class in the fall of 2016.