Editor's note: This story was produced in collaboration with UMKC students covering the people and issues in Wyandotte County.
Wyandotte County is one step closer to housing the first dental school in Kansas.
The Kansas Board of Regents last week approved $2.5 million for the project’s architectural plans and construction drawings. The next steps include securing $6.9 million in annual funding from the state Legislature and raising $40 million in a capital campaign.
If funding is secured, the dental school will be housed in a remodeled Dykes Library on the University of Kansas Medical School campus in Kansas City, Kan.
Anne Brandau-Murguia, a Wyandotte County commissioner and member of the Kansas Board of Regents, announced the development at Thursday's Wyandotte County Commission meeting.
“I’m very excited,” said Brandau-Murguia. “We made it over the first hurdle.”
She thanked the Wyandotte County Board of Commissioners for supporting the project, citing a study conducted several years ago that identified Kansas City, Kansas, as the most strategic location to build a dental school.
Mayor Mark Holland was glad to hear about the progress.
“This is great news,” said Holland. “We certainly want to be supportive of the growth at KU and providing world-class health care right here.”
While leaders in Wyandotte County are eager for a new dental school, not all members of the Board of Regents share Brandau-Murguia’s enthusiasm.
Some critics argue that since there is no guarantee the Legislature will fund the project, the $2.5 million investment in architectural plans is unnecessarily risky. If the state does not fund the project, that money won’t be recouped.
For Brandau-Murguia and other supporters, the investment demonstrates commitment to finally securing an in-state dental school.
Despite a 53-year-old agreement that enables Kansas students studying dentistry at UMKC and Missouri students studying architecture at Kansas State University to pay in-state tuition, numbers show that few Kansas students return to their home state to set up practice. The result is a “well documented” shortage of dental health professionals throughout Kansas, according to a report issued by the Board of Regents, with rural and low-income areas hit the hardest.
Plans for the dental school include encouraging rural placement of graduates and an application process preferring rural students.