UNC-system leaders gave initial approval Thursday for a pharmacy program at UNC-Asheville, despite significant opposition.
The UNC-A satellite program will be linked to the UNC-Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy, which already has a satellite at Elizabeth City State University.
UNC-system President Erskine Bowles, who recommended the approval, cited the success of the program at ECSU and the proposal’s minimal costs to the state as key reasons for his support.
The Board of Governors’ educational planning committee approved UNC-A’s program instead of a proposal from UNC-Greensboro to construct its own pharmacy school.
An independent study concluded that there isn’t enough of a demand for an entirely new pharmacy school in Greensboro, Bowles said.
“Anytime we start a new school, it’s going to have to have a significant positive impact,” he said. “It came to either Asheville or nothing at all.”
Some board members and UNC-G representatives said the decision was made too hastily, that it was based on insufficient information, that it failed to take into account a need to increase minority representation in the pharmacy field and that it did UNC-G and the Triad area a disservice.
ECSU is a historically black university, but the satellite pharmacy school doesn’t enroll more than a few minority students, said board member Gladys Robinson.
UNC-G Chancellor Linda Brady argued that a pharmacy school in the Triad would accomplish several things — create hundreds of jobs, enroll many minority students from surrounding historically black colleges and universities and help transform a regional economy still struggling to overcome a reliance on manufacturing and textiles.
Some board members and others in attendance requested that the committee postpone making a decision until the next board meeting.
The results of the study were released too close to the meeting to receive adequate consideration, they said.
Despite all the concerns vocalized, the strong partnership already in place between UNC-CH and UNC-A, as well as Asheville’s willingness to bankroll almost the entire project, won out.
“We can do a quality satellite program in the East. We can do a quality satellite program in the West,” said board member James Deal.
“We know we can do that without additional cost to North Carolina.”
The UNC-A proposal was approved contingent on local governments and agencies raising more than $3 million to help fund the project, the nearby Mission Hospital matching spending on faculty and residents and tuition costs paralleling those at the UNC-CH pharmacy school.
The committee also agreed to re-examine the need for either a satellite campus or separate pharmacy school in Greensboro in two years.
Contact the State & National Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.