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Deal for Lyon College’s vet and dental school campus in Little Rock falls through

A new dental school will be located in Heifer International's current headquarters in downtown Little Rock.
Heifer International
Plans to build new schools of dentistry and veterinary medicine in Heifer International's current headquarters in downtown Little Rock have fallen through.

The sale of the proposed Little Rock-based campus for the about-to-be-formed dental and veterinary schools at Lyon College in Batesville has fallen apart. OneHealth Companies, the school’s partner in the venture, failed to meet the deadline to buy the Heifer International facility, according to numerous published reports.

Lyon College President Melissa Taverner told Talk Business & Politics the school is now searching for another site in Little Rock to house the newly formed Lyon College Institute for Health Sciences. Both schools are slated to start classes in the late summer or early fall of 2025.

The inaugural classes are expected to have about 100 students each. The accreditation process for both is on schedule and now the school needs to find a campus, she said. School officials didn’t comment on the state of the partnership with OneHealth Companies after the campus deal collapsed.

“We are actively collaborating with the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, the city of Little Rock, the Clinton Foundation, and the Downtown Little Rock Partnership on our planned dental and veterinary medicine schools, ensuring that the academic programs continue to progress with unwavering momentum,” Taverner said.

If the schools open on schedule, they would be the first of their kind in Arkansas.

The Natural State is in need of both schools. In 2021, Arkansas ranked 51st in the country for dental health and is experiencing a dentist shortage. With only 14.3 veterinarians per 100,000 individuals, Arkansas ranks 49th in the country for its veterinarian-population ratio, and agriculture makes up nearly 15% of Arkansas’ economy with poultry, cattle, and equines accounting for the largest share of that. Demand is expected to increase.

A recent study predicts Americans will increase their spending on pet healthcare by 33% in the next decade, while the number of new veterinarians entering the profession each year increases by just 2.7%, falling short of the need for 40,000 new veterinarians in the U.S. by 2030.

An economic impact study found the schools will have a $94 million total economic impact on the state related to labor alone. Plans to start recruiting potential students next year remain unchanged, school officials said.

“At this time, the Lyon College Institute of Health Sciences remains on track to open in 2025. Lyon College has hit all of its marks in terms of developing the veterinary medicine and dental academic programs,” Taverner added.