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Morgan State explores bringing a for-profit medical school to campus

Morgan State University in Baltimore.
Morgan State University in Baltimore. (Paul Burk/National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Morgan State University wants to bring a privately funded, for-profit medical school to its campus as early as 2023, an addition that would be the first new medical school at a historically black college or university in nearly 45 years, officials said.

The school has partnered with Salud Education LLC. The endeavor at Morgan State would be Salud’s first attempt at opening a school, said George Mychaskiw, the company’s chief learning officer. Individual members of the company have opened medical schools elsewhere.

The announcement comes as Morgan State experiences steady enrollment increases thanks, in part, to a growing number of nonblack students.

The opening of a medical school could prove financially beneficial for the Baltimore university. Morgan State alumni more than a decade ago joined other Maryland graduates of historically black schools in accusing the state of withholding funds and allowing predominantly white schools to duplicate their programs.

Kayla Elliott, senior policy analyst for higher education at The Education Trust, said that amid financial struggles, historically black colleges and universities — widely known as HBCUs — have explored alternative revenue sources.

“Without the proper funding and also without the same access and relationship to the state that their predominantly white counterparts have, institutions like HBCUs sometimes have to depend on external operators,” Elliott said.

Morgan State President David Wilson said bringing a school of osteopathic medicine to campus would allow the university to compete for more research grants.

The medical school will come at no cost to Maryland taxpayers, with Salud covering the $120 million bill that comes with opening a facility, Mychaskiw said. The company would lease land on Morgan State’s campus.

Salud and leaders at Morgan State have been discussing the idea for “a couple years,” Mychaskiw said. The university’s Board of Regents gave Wilson permission to explore an agreement with Salud, but no official deal has been reached.

To operate, Salud would need approval from the Maryland Higher Education Commission and from medical associations. It is unclear how long that could take.

“The approval process will depend on the nature of the proposal and the Maryland Higher Education Commission is not aware of any proposal that is being submitted for review,” Rhonda Wardlaw, a commission spokeswoman, said in an email.

Lee Towers, another higher education commission spokesman, said it is rare for out-of-state entities to open postsecondary schools in Maryland.

For-profit schools been scrutinized for student outcomes. Students who enroll at for-profits are less likely to complete a program and more likely to default on their loans, research from the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment at Columbia University shows.

“What we know about for-profit colleges, when it comes to federal accountability for student success, is that they tend not to have as good results” as their nonprofit counterparts, Elliott said.

Wilson defended the move and said he was impressed by a similar arrangement at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine at New Mexico State University. Mychaskiw said he helped open that school and its first class of graduates will finish this fall.

“We would not be open to this kind of affiliation with Salud if we had concerns about this not being a high-quality opportunity that will prepare students to be competitive,” Wilson said.

Salud is intent on opening more schools, domestically and abroad, that will train doctors in osteopathic medicine. Most students who graduate with degrees in osteopathic medicine become primary care physicians, according to Mychaskiw. The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortage of between 21,100 and 55,200 primary care doctors by 2032.

Wilson and Mychaskiw said they hope the collaboration will produce more black primary care doctors for Baltimore, a city that suffers from inequities in health access.

“We know that the best sort of care that is culturally appropriate, humble care is delivered by a doctor that looks like you,” Mychaskiw said.