- Morgan State University, in Baltimore, is seeking to open a for-profit medical school as early as 2023 that will be funded by a private company, Salud Education, according to a university spokesperson.
- The College of Osteopathic Medicine would be the first new medical school at a historically black institution in nearly 45 years, according to Morgan State. It would offer doctor of osteopathic medicine degrees.
- Officials say the school would help remedy the country's growing shortage of physicians — specifically new black doctors. Salud will front the cost of starting the school, but skepticism remains about for-profit medical schools.
With a new medical school, Morgan State intends to help address a looming deficit of as many as 55,200 primary care physicians nationally by 2032 and to increase the number of black doctors.
Its announcement comes as HBCUs nationwide look for creative ways to grow their enrollment and improve their financial footing. While enrollment at Morgan State has been flat for the last several years, others have seen growth — a trend some researchers attribute to a surge in hate crimes on other campuses and a tumultuous political climate.
Earlier this month, Morgan State's board of trustees approved a "letter of intent" to work with Salud. According to the firm's website, it is working to address the shortage of doctors in the U.S. Salud has not yet opened a medical school, though members of the company have, The Washington Post reported.
The proposed partnership has raised questions.
Proponents of private, for-profit medical schools have argued they can help bring more doctors to areas that need them — particularly rural regions — without burdening taxpayers. Salud would cover the roughly $120 million to $130 million in costs associated with opening the school, Morgan State spokesperson Larry Jones told Education Dive.
Jones said Salud will operate the medical school and it will have its own faculty and dean.
For-profit medical schools have faced criticism, such as potentially saddling their graduates with significant student loan debt. The Associated Press reported on the case of one such graduate who incurred $350,000 in debt, about double the average debt of most medical school students at the time, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The graduate told the AP he still found the experience worthwhile.
For a century, for-profit medical schools did not operate in the U.S., as medical school accreditors were loath to approve for-profit entities. But a 1996 ruling against the American Bar Association helped change that by forcing the group to accept for-profit law schools. The medical education sector soon followed, and the for-profit Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine opened in Colorado in 2007.
A handful of for-profit medical schools have opened since, such as the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine at New Mexico State University, which Morgan State President David Wilson visited before deciding to pursue a deal with Salud.
Morgan State's school would need to be accredited and approved by the Maryland Higher Education Commission. The commission has not received a formal proposal from Morgan State or Salud, spokesperson Rhonda Wardlaw told Education Dive in an email. The approval process and subsequent timeline for opening the school will depend on the nature of the proposal, Wardlaw wrote.