PAINTSVILLE — Midway College — a private Central Kentucky school — announced Monday that it will expand into Eastern Kentucky by establishing a pharmacy school in Johnson County.
When it opens its branch on the Big Sandy Community and Technical College campus in fall 2011, Midway will be the first non-profit private pharmacy school in Kentucky, President William B. Drake Jr. said Monday. The college is raising an initial investment of $20 million, he said.
During the announcement at Johnson Central High School in Paintsville, state Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pike ville, promised to seek $100,000 in the state budget each of the next two years to help the school get started. The school also will apply for funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission and seek coal severance tax money.
"We have learned to work together as a region," said state House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, as officials thanked Johnson County and Paintsville officials for being open to the school.
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The college did not release details about initial donors, but in a speech Monday, Jones thanked the Perry family for its philanthropy. Midway trustee Julianne Williams Perry is married to Paintsville lawyer G. Chad Perry, and the family gave $1 million, Jones said. Chad Perry donated money and was active in starting up the Pike ville College School of Osteopathic Medicine in 1997.
The pharmacy school is intended to fill a shortage of pharmacists, not only in the mountains but nationwide, Drake said. The college's consultations showed that with the aging population and retirement rate, the number of pharmacists needs to grow by about a third.
In October, only Wisconsin, Alabama, Texas and West Virginia had more difficulty filling open pharmacist positions than Kentucky, according to the Aggregate Demand Index, a survey sponsored by the Pharmacy Manpower Project. Kentucky was tied for fifth with Missouri, North Carolina and North Dakota.
"Kentucky has been consistently above the national level in the difficulty in filling open pharmacist positions," Katherine Knapp, project director of the index and dean of the Touro University — California College of Pharmacy, told The Associated Press.
But there is also a debate nationally about whether pharmacy technicians, with two-year degrees available at less expensive community colleges, can fill that need, said Linda Linville, assistant vice president of academic affairs at the state Council on Postsecondary Education.
"Is there a big demand in the community?" Linville asked.
Midway College's pharmacy school follows efforts at other small liberal arts schools to expand graduate offerings, partly to make themselves more attractive to undergraduate students. Just last fall, Midway graduated its first students with master of business administration degrees.
There is a "dearth" of graduate school offerings in the mountains, said Andrew Thompson, vice president for academic affairs for the Council on Postsecondary Education.
"We have always served the under-served student," Drake said, pointing to the school's beginnings as a school for orphans and a women's college.
During the past five years, the college has doubled the size of its campus and enrollment, and it is known for second-career and non-traditional offerings, officials said.
The University of Kentucky and the private, for-profit Sullivan University are the only professional pharmacy schools in the state.
After four years, Midway College officials said, the school will serve 320 students for a four-year doctorate degree, and eventually it will be moved from the community college campus to a standalone building in Johnson County, Drake said.
He said in an interview that the academics of Johnson County high schools — with consistently high SAT scores, for example — helped convince officials that Paintsville was a good place to be.
"This is a community that values education," he said.`