Academic Outsider on a Mission: How an Off-Shore, For-Profit Institution Is Helping to Solve the Nursing School Seat Shortage in the U.S

By Ross, Robert | University Business, January 2006 | Go to article overview

Academic Outsider on a Mission: How an Off-Shore, For-Profit Institution Is Helping to Solve the Nursing School Seat Shortage in the U.S


Ross, Robert, University Business


BY AGE 63, I HAD BECOME A successful, wealthy entrepreneur many times over. Incensed that the son of an employee had been denied admission to medical school despite having adequate credentials, I decided to open my own institution.

Although I had very little experience with education or academia, I was hoping that my street-smarts and business instincts, combined with the recruitment of some credentialed administrators of other medical schools, would enable me to succeed in my mission. Why shouldn't anyone who has the determination and aspiration to become an M.D. (or veterinarian) have the right to do it, provided that they meet the accepted standards and criteria?

Condensing 20 years into several sentences: The American Medical Association and its liaison committee on medical education were in opposition to such an initiative. However, the Ross University School of Medicine grew into one of the largest medical schools in the world. It now has more than 3,500 alumni practicing medicine, many of them in the United States with appointments at recognized hospitals and medical centers. Similarly, about 23 years ago, I founded the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, which now has about 2,000 alumni.

(I sold both of these universities in the year 2000. Today, they are owned and operated by DeVry.)

I've noticed a growing respect in for-profit higher education and off-shore education. For-profit education has the ability to provide very dear focus in building skills, offering specific training and knowledge in particular fields. The graduates of for-profits have been embraced by their particular industries and in their work environments. An increasing number of alumni from these for-profits further demonstrates the purpose for enrollment at these institutions.

In American medicine today, more than one-quarter of all practicing physicians are foreign-trained. As an example, where Ross University was one of several off-shore institutions feeding graduates into American medicine, today there are more than a dozen such universities, and this method of entry has become quite acceptable. Especially in the past two decades, a world global philosophy has prevailed among Americans that embrace international education.

Students at off-shore colleges and universities have enjoyed huge improvements and a more equitable playing field with today's cost-efficient travel and internet technology. No one can deny the impact of online education. And this element has become a positive benefit to off-shore schools.

Somewhat similar to the vacuum of medical school graduates in proportion to the need for doctors, an even more serious crisis has emerged with the lack of nurses available to staff hospitals, nursing homes, private practices, and other health care concerns. The deficit in the profession appears to be growing to 700,000. Meanwhile, there are an estimated 125,000 students who are wait-listed for enrollment in schools of nursing!

Perhaps, administrators at colleges and universities are fearful of stepping out with a significant, additional capital investment in their infrastructures and permanent tenure-track faculty, which nursing schools require (when compared with other more traditional classroom academic offerings). They may view this initiative with grave financial risk, if the nursing personnel picture changes say, in the next five to 10 years.

The timing was optimum for a for-profit entrepreneurial approach. The International University of Nursing uses the business model from my two previous schools. Working out of the same New York City office where I founded the other schools, I was able to obtain a charter for the new school from the government of St. Kitts in the Caribbean. For many students throughout the world, flying to St. Kitts and taking up temporary residence there is an easy, even attractive, proposition.

St. Kitts officials had been pleased with their experience in hosting my veterinary school. …

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