KET Legislative Coverage

Higher Education in Eastern Kentucky

by John Gregory | 02/24/14 11:38 AM

As a graduate of Pikeville College, James Hurley knows the critical need for higher education opportunities in Appalachia.

Hurley is now the president of his alma mater, and he joined Bill Goodman on One to One this weekend to discuss the history and future of what's now called the University of Pikeville. The school has 2,300 students from 42 states and 18 countries.

U-Pike is perhaps best known as the home of the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine. Established in 1997, the college has trained more than 800 physicians; 62 percent of those graduates practice within a 90-mile radius of Pikeville. Hurley plans to add a college of optometry to the campus in 2015. He said it would be the first optometry school in the commonwealth, and it will be one of the few optometry training centers in the region.

Some lawmakers have pushed to make U-Pike part of the state university system, but Hurley said he doesn't see that as a viable option, given limited public funds for higher education in the commonwealth. Despite competing with public institutions for private philanthropic dollars, Hurley said his school is one of the fastest growing four-year universities in the southeast.

Since more than 70 percent of Pikeville students come from central Appalachia, Hurley is keenly focused on reversing the brain drain of talented young people who leave the region. "Our mantra is, if you recruit them from the mountains, you train them in the mountains, they'll stay in the mountains," Hurley said.

Watch the full interview on One to One.