After Gov. Brian Kemp Pledges $50 Million, University of Georgia Plans New Medical School

During a recent speech, the governor said the investment in a medical school could help address Georgia's ongoing physician workforce shortage.
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Matthew Arrojas is a news reporter at BestColleges covering higher education issues and policy. He previously worked as the hospitality and tourism news reporter at the South Florida Business Journal. He also covered higher education policy issues as...
Published on January 22, 2024
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  • The University of Georgia may soon launch a new medical school.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp recently called on the state Legislature to allocate $50 million for the school.
  • UGA's current medical school is in partnership with Augusta University.

Georgia's flagship university may soon launch its own medical school in the wake of a $50 million proposal from the governor's office.

In his latest budget proposals, Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who has served as governor of Georgia since 2019, called for funds to establish a new medical school on the University of Georgia (UGA) campus. Kemp said during a Jan. 10 speech to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce that this investment could help address the state's ongoing physician workforce shortage.

"With these new assets on the way, we will further address the growing need for healthcare professionals in our state, and ensure that we are doing everything we can to address challenges across the healthcare spectrum — from workforce to cost to access to quality," Kemp said during the speech.

The proposed UGA investment is the fifth-most costly capital project proposal in Kemp's amended budget for fiscal year 2024 and fiscal year 2025.

A spokesperson from Kemp's office told BestColleges that this investment would create a new medical school "that would be its own entity."

A UGA medical school already exists, but it exists through a partnership with Augusta University and sits apart from UGA's main campus. According to the AU/UGA Medical Partnership, the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University is the state's only public medical school. Augusta University's partnership with UGA in 2009 expanded the school into UGA's home of Athens, Georgia, in an effort to help alleviate the state's healthcare workforce shortage.

Addressing Regional, National Trends

The physician shortage in Georgia persists a decade after the AU/UGA Medical Partnership launched.

The state reported the 11th-lowest ratio of physicians in patient care for every 10,000 residents, according to an American Medical Association report using 2019 data.

The Kaiser Family Foundation found there were 241 federally designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) in the state as of November. Georgia would need to add 683 practitioners to remove these HPSA designations.

Nationally, following a multiyear boom period, medical schools have struggled in recent years to grow their number of applicants. A recent report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) found that after hitting an all-time high in the number of new applicants for the 2021-22 academic year, the number of applicants declined each of the next two years.

AAMC reported just over 52,500 applicants for the 2023-24 academic year. That's a 15.8% decrease from the 2021-22 academic year.

The number of first-time applicants in 2023-24 was the lowest since the 2017-18 academic year.

Still, the UGA proposal would signal the continuation of a broad, if somewhat sluggish, national trend toward increasing medical school enrollment. In response to the physician shortage, in 2006, the AAMC called for a 30% medical school enrollment increase. The nation reached that goal in the 2018-19 academic year — three years after the target date.

What's Next?

According to a report from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, UGA released a medical school feasibility study shortly after Kemp announced his budget priorities, with the report determining that the school was viable. The study concluded that UGA could open and enroll students into the new medical school as early as the fall 2026 semester.

Kemp's budget also calls for $178 million for the design and construction of a dental school at Georgia Southern University.

Georgia Republicans control the governor's office and both houses of the state Legislature, suggesting that Kemp has a relatively clear pathway for passing this and his other budget priorities.

The state's legislative session kicked off Jan. 8 and is scheduled to end March 28.