Lyon College has preliminary plans to open dental and veterinary schools

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,395 views 

Lyon College, founded as Arkansas College in 1872 in downtown Batesville, may be expanding the number of schools in its system. The school is developing plans for proposed veterinary and dental schools to be located in Little Rock. The schools will be part of the new Lyon College Institute of Health Sciences.

How much construction for these new schools will cost has not been released.

The College’s faculty assembly and Board of Trustees approved both proposals in March, and the proposals for academic changes were submitted to the College’s regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Following consideration by HLC, the College will submit the prepared accreditation applications with both the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education (COE) and the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Pending the accreditors’ approval, inaugural classes could start as early as 2024 or 2025.

“Lyon has a 150-year history of providing exceptional and relevant education to Arkansans and students of the region… These plans are part of a comprehensive, strategic set of initiatives, all borne out of our vision for Lyon and higher education in Arkansas as we mark our sesquicentennial year,” said Lyon College President Melissa Taverner.

Lyon has identified several potential locations in Little Rock and should finalize the location for the campus soon. Talk Business & Politics has learned that one potential location could be adjacent to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.

The College has entered into a strategic collaboration with OneHealth Education Group (OneHealth). OneHealth utilizes private sector capital and consultant solutions to support the launch of professional health science programs. The group aims to reduce the debt burden of graduating professionals and to provide solutions for communities that lack ample access to healthcare.

“We are excited to convene Lyon College, dental and veterinary leaders, and other funders together to create this opportunity,” said Frazier Edwards, president of OneHealth.

Last year, Arkansas ranked 51st in the country for dental health and is experiencing a dentist shortage.

“With no in-state options, aspiring dental students in Arkansas are forced to pay out-of-state tuition, which is significantly greater than in-state tuition fees,” said Andy Goodman, president of Arkansas’ Independent Colleges & Universities. “Once students migrate away from Arkansas for school, they are less likely to return, draining talent and energy from our state.”

Additionally, with only 14.3 veterinarians per 100,000 individuals, Arkansas ranks 49th in the country for its veterinarian-population ratio, and agriculture makes up nearly 15% of Arkansas’ economy with poultry, cattle, and equines accounting for the largest share of that. Demand is expected to increase sharply. A recent study predicts Americans will increase their spending on pet healthcare by 33% in the next decade, while the number of new veterinarians entering the profession each year increases by just 2.7% annually, falling short of the need for 40,000 new veterinarians in the U.S. by 2030.

“Our strength in education, coupled with our partnership with OneHealth, creates a unique opportunity to meet an important need that affects every Arkansan,” Taverner added.

Earlier this year, the College also announced a collaboration with White River Medical Center (WRMC) in Batesville to develop an RN to BSN program. Taverner explained that these partnerships with WRMC and OneHealth are “intentional efforts to continue providing excellent undergraduate education at our central campus in Batesville while also expanding to offer graduate and professional programs in Little Rock and beyond.”

OneHealth has partnered with the Academy of Advancing Leadership (AAL) and the Animal Policy Group for guidance in developing the schools. The AAL is a health and higher education consulting firm assisting directly with the dental school development, and the Animal Policy Group works closely with the veterinary industry and schools in the U.S. and throughout the world.

“The partnership between Lyon College and OneHealth will launch a community based and a distributive model of education and clinical care to meet the significant oral health needs of Arkansas,” said Dr. Karl Haden, president of AAL. “AAL is pleased to contribute to the planning and initiation of the school.”

Lyon College is facing a daunting problem that will impact institutions around the state. People are having fewer children following the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001 and the Great Recession in 2008. As those born in those age groups approach college age, there will be a dramatic drop in the number of students in college. It is estimated that the drop could be up to 25%.

Lyon College is one of the oldest colleges in the state. Founded as Arkansas College by Arkansas Presbyterians, Lyon College opened its doors in September 1872. Originally located in downtown Batesville, the college remained under the guidance of the Long family for much of its first four decades. Rev. Isaac J. Long served as president from the college’s founding until his death in 1891 and his son, Eugene R. Long served two terms as president, 1891 to 1895 and 1897 to 1913, according to the school. It was co-educational from the beginning. The school changed its name to Lyon College in 1994.