By Lachin Hatemi M.D.
University of Kentucky (UK) has seen the future of higher education, and it is in the numbers of out-of-state students – preferably the black out-of-state students.
Kentucky had cut its financial support for its public colleges over the last decade, which was offset by rapidly rising tuition rates. But funding trends have gotten worse, and the cost of college education is rapidly becoming cost-prohibitive.
Faced with declining state funding, the University of Kentucky wants to attract more out-of-state students to fund an ambitious expansion of university facilities and its athletics department. University President Eli Capiuloto believes that better dorms and athletic programs will advance one of the school’s highest priorities: attracting a larger number of out-of-state students paying higher tuition.
College of Medicine at University of Kentucky is an exception, unlike the rest of the university it does not have to advertise to get a lot of applicants. Over the last decade, medical schools are becoming very popular destinations among the youth due glut of lawyers and pharmacists and a competitive job market. The medical schools also benefitted from higher demand for doctors from the expanding healthcare system. These trends had been spurring a very large number of nonresident applicants to the UK Medical School from willing to pay the hefty $57,000 in annual tuition – almost three times what Kentucky residents pay.
Funding is not the only issue University of Kentucky Medical School had been battling. Attracting and retaining an adequate number of black medical students also a problem and the UK College of Medicine is facing a lot of criticism about its minority recruitment policies. The numbers of black medical students at UK were so low that NAACP had to sit down with medical school officials to address the issue.
One way to attract and ensure enough blacks apply UK’s medical school is to build pipeline programs and mentoring at high school and college levels. Existence of minority pipeline programs to produce qualified black applicants is a positive step; however, there is no guarantee that such programs will produce any results. Over the last decade, there were very few applicants enrolled to UK College of Medicine from such pipeline programs, which makes us believe such programs were built only to satisfy accreditation bodies such as LCME with no true intentions of producing any viable applicants.
UK College of Medicine has no incentive to attract black medical students from Kentucky. If minority numbers matter, there is no distinction between a black in-state student and a black out-of-state student. Minority statistics would essentially stay the same if UK decides to only accept nonresident black students, which is essentially what they have been doing for the last 5-6 years.
Much of the argument for University of Kentucky’s recruitment of minority students centers on the idea of how state and federal scholarships are distributed. Most of the black students recruited by UK are excluded from state-funded scholarships due to their out-of-state status and some cannot benefit from federal grants and loans due to their non-resident immigration status.
Shambra Mulder, the education chair of Kentucky’s NAACP, remains skeptical that UK has good faith in recruiting black medical students from Kentucky. She is aware that most of the current black students at UK College of Medicine are born in Africa or recent immigrants who pay exorbitant tuition fees to have the privilege of being a medical student at UK. Such a double standard makes us question the medical school’s true intentions.
Due to existing policies implemented by school administrators and failure of minority recruitment and retention efforts results in a tragic picture. A great majority of the black medical students end up paying much more than white medical students due to their out-of-state status, and they are systematically excluded from scholarship opportunities as a result of it. We recommend Department of Education to closely investigate University of Kentucky’s internal policies about minority recruitment. Minority recruitment trends at UK are very worrisome and very similar to apartheid.
Lachin Hatemi is a physician living in Buffalo, New York. His interests include human rights, racial equality and interfaith dialogue. You can reach Lachin at firstname.lastname@example.org.