Lyon College in Batesville has begun developing plans for veterinary and dental schools to be located in Little Rock, the liberal arts college announced Monday.
The veterinary and dental schools will be part of the new Lyon College Institute of Health Sciences. Each would represent the first of its kind in the state.
Lyon College’s faculty assembly and board of trustees approved both proposals in March 2022, and the proposals for academic changes were submitted to the college’s regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, on March 15. Following consideration by HLC, the college will submit the prepared accreditation applications with both the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education and the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Pending the accreditors’ approval, inaugural classes could start as early as 2024 or 2025.
Lyon has identified several potential locations in Little Rock and should finalize the location for the campus soon, officials said.
Lyon College is collaborating with OneHealth Education Group to help ensure the success of the schools’ openings. 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 now 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 percent 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 percent in the next decade, while the number of new veterinarians entering the profession each year increases by just 2.7 percent annually, falling short of the need for 40,000 new veterinarians in the United States by 2030.
In an announcement to the campus community, Lyon College President Melissa Taverner said, “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.”
Earlier this year, Lyon College also announced a collaboration with White River Medical Center 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.”