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University of Pikeville to build Kentucky’s first College of Optometry

Katherine Belcher
Release Date
Sep 24, 2014

USDA Rural Development Acting Under Secretary Doug O’Brien today announced a $40 million Community Facilities direct loan to University of Pikeville to construct a new facility to house Kentucky’s first ever College of Optometry.

“Comprehensive investments in health care and education have a tremendous impact on regional economies in areas like Eastern Kentucky,” O’Brien said, announcing the award on behalf of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We are making these strategic investments now to have a positive impact on Kentucky’s future.”

Thomas G. Fern, State Director for Rural Development, said USDA funding is being provided through the agency’s Community Facilities programs.

“USDA invests in projects such as the College of Optometry because they not only create jobs, they are essential to improving the quality of life for rural Kentuckians,” said Fern. “Community Facilities projects are vital for the creation and maintenance of strong rural communities – and Rural Development is proud to assist such a worthwhile project that will provide tremendous economic and educational benefits to the region and the state.”

This project is part of a strategic plan to upgrade the comprehensive educational needs of Central Appalachia. The total cost for the project is estimated at $52 million and includes a $5.5 million applicant contribution; $3.7 million in private donations; a $1.5 million ARC Grant; and a $1.3 million EDA Grant.

The University of Pikeville is located in Pike County, which is part of the USDA StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity and is one of many being highlighted by the SOAR initiative (Shaping Our Appalachian Region), which was created to boost Eastern Kentucky's economic development.

Construction  on the new 90,000-square-foot facility will began this month and will be completed in time to open to students in the summer of 2016. With an estimated 60 students admitted per class, the program will have a total capacity of 240.

More than 1,750 students, along with 284 faculty and staff, study and work on the 25-acre campus of the University of Pikeville, which prides itself on attaining a notable enrollment increase. It has more than doubled over the last 5 years. The goal is to incorporate strategic growth by offering dynamic programs of prominent demand while maintaining a healthy financial outlook.

Founded in 1889, the University of Pikeville is a private school with 1,282 undergraduate students and 467 graduate students. It offers graduate programs in osteopathic medicine, business administration and sports management.

Since the start of the Obama Administration, Rural Development has invested more than $4.4 billion in Kentucky.  The agency is targeting assistance to persistent poverty areas in Appalachian Kentucky through the USDA StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity, and will continue its work with Governor Beshear and his staff, the Kentucky Congressional Delegation, other federal agencies, SOAR officials and community leaders throughout the region to benefit rural communities in the impacted areas.

President Obama’s historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger.  Under his leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.