The price of a brand new smile

President James Ammons’ proposal to build a School of Dentistry at FAMU, is a great idea-even if the timing is off given the state’s economic condition.   

If the Florida Board of Governors does not recognize any of FAMU’s other attributes, they cannot deny that the school trains competent health professionals. Ammons would have to market the new program to Florida’s taxpayers to convince them that FAMU is finally on the right track.     

There are two dental programs serving 18 million Florida residents: the University of Florida, and Nova Southeastern. Tuition at UF is $26,894.00 for in state and $53,375.00 for out of state. NSU tuition is $44,280.00 for in state and $46,680.00 for out of state.  FAMU could offer training at a much lower price, as it does with its other professional programs.

UF Dentistry is the only public program. According to its Office of Institutional Planning and Research, the number of minorities enrolled in its dentistry program fell by 87 percent from academic year 1999 to 2009. Coincidentally, this came after the One Florida Initiative, which removed affirmative action practices from state university admissions. Dentistry at FAMU may be able to help fill the void of minorities in science based professions.

Now that a proposal is on the table, the start up money must be secured. FAMU needs the state to match $1.5 million to initiate the program. This may prove challenging because FAMU has not always had a good track record with taxpayers.  Proving integrity to taxpayers could take several years of clean audits. This can only happen with support from alumni, and the FAMU community.            

Acquiring the program is only half the battle. It is still too early to know how much it would cost to run the school, but grants and tax dollars would only be enough to run a mediocre program. To operate a dentistry school that would rival UF’s, FAMU needs generous alumni contributions. These donations would assist the programs’ neediest students and help pay for the most brilliant researchers in dental medicine-not to mention maintaining a technologically advanced program.        

Ammons and his team are taking FAMU in a different direction. But they must realize that their every move will be scrutinized. Dentistry at FAMU should be a match made in heaven. Now is the time for the university family must prove that FAMU’s future is bright.