LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Lawmakers are managing to resuscitate a bill that would toss out certain quotas for UAMS' admissions.
Sponsors say it evens the playing field for prospective doctors. But opponents say, if passed, it will do just the opposite.
"It's an issue of fairness," State Senator Bart Hester said.
Sen. Hester is breathing new life into a bill he tried to pass two years ago.
"We shouldn't tell a child he shouldn't get to go to medical school because the zip code his parents chose to raise him in," Hester said.
Hester wants to eliminate reserved admission slots at UAMS that are divvied up by congressional districts. He says he'd rather see applicants selected purely on merit.
"It creates a level playing field," Hester said.
But the bill would also repeal a requirement giving additional consideration to applicants from rural areas.
Some people, like State Rep. John Walker, say that repealing that requirement would be a deadly blow to parts of the state already struggling to find sufficient healthcare.
"The students in the south and the east have no equal opportunity to be admitted into medical school," Sen. Walker said.
Walker believes admitting medical students from rural Arkansas means a better shot of them returning home to practice.
"It's not where you go to medical school, where you end up. It's where you go to residency. So, if we want to correct that, we need to create a residency program in rural Arkansas," Hester said.
Another concern is that ditching quotas could open up more spots for out-of-state students.
"They take seats that Arkansas people could have. Then they may stay here, They may not," Walker said.
UAMS had no comment, other than that it will "operate in accord with what the general assembly decides."
But there was at least one thing these lawmakers could agree on...
"We want Arkansas students in our Arkansas medical school," Hester said.
...even if they disagree on how to make that happen.
The bill narrowly passed the House Monday after having failed on the floor Friday. It'll likely be taken up by the Senate Education Committee Wednesday.
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