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Dental school plans withdrawn

Proposal under scrutiny by Board of Gov.

Senior staff writer

Published: Saturday, November 12, 2011

Updated: Sunday, November 13, 2011 17:11

dental school

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The UCF administration has withdrawn its proposal for a dental school after scrutiny from the state university system’s Board of Governors.

The UCF administration has withdrawn its proposal for a dental school after meeting opposition from the state university system's Board of Governors.

The proposal, which was initially turned down by the Board of Governors this past September, was revised and to be voted upon last week. On Nov. 8, however, UCF revoked its dental school plans.

"We have asked that the Board of Governors withdraw our proposal for consideration at this time. Although this innovative project does not require state appropriations, we are not moving forward at this time," UCF spokesman Grant Heston said in the initial statement announcing the decision. "We look forward to continuing to work on this project in the future."

In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, UCF Provost Tony Waldrop said that the proposal was withdrawn because the Board of Governors needed more time to understand the UCF dental school concept before the matter was voted upon.

"We still certainly believe in the model we had in the proposal," he said in the Sentinel article. "I'm not saying it will be next month and I'm not saying it will be next year — but in the ‘near' term."

The project, which would cost university an approximate $42.8 million, was to be self-sustaining, meaning it would run off its own profits — independent of loans and taxpayer funding.

To make this possible, UCF was to charge its dental students $55,675 per year beginning in 2014, the school's projected opening year.

These high tuition rates came under fire due to the cheaper dental school options offered in the state, such as the University of Florida's dental school, which charged its students a tuition rate of $35,570 this year.

UCF health sciences senior Minar Rane said that because of the dental school's planned location at the nearby Lake Nona medical city, the high tuition rates would have been worth it.

"I was looking forward to staying here longer. Now I have to go out of state and be away from my family," Minar said. "It's going to affect other Florida students also."

During the Board of Governors meeting when the last proposal was shut down, it was suggested that UCF partner with UF to make the plan more fiscally sound.

The revised plan proposed that UCF use UF as a consulting firm as the dental school got off the ground rather than a true partner, the only noticeable change in the proposal.

The UCF administration maintains that the dental school would pump money into the economy, with a projected economic gross of $73 million, while creating hundreds of jobs along the way.

Committee members of the Board of Governors said that a state study conducted regarding the need for dentists in Florida did not indicate a shortage of personnel in the industry. They also pointed out that Florida already has dental schools at UF, Nova Southeastern University and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

The Florida Dental Association released a statement shortly after UCF's proposal withdrawal, applauding the university in its decision and the Board of Governors "hesitancy to approve the modified plan."

In the statement, the FDA said that UCF still failed to make a strong case for the dental school and "did not adequately address the fact that state resources would eventually be needed to pay for many of the hidden costs associated with opening and sustaining a new school."

"…the FDA strongly believes that any investment opportunity claiming to improve the quality of oral health care in the state should address the most pressing issues of its citizens in the most effective, economically sustainable approach, with the highest return on investment," said FDA President Cesar Sabates in the statement. "Simply adding a new dental school at UCF at this time will provide none of these returns and will not benefit Florida citizens who lack access to oral health care."

Rane said that he was disappointed in the decision.

"Dentistry is one of the biggest growing industries, and I think we should have a dental school," Rane said. "We're the second largest university in the country and we don't have one."

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