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Grenada: Major Expansion Plan Helps University Flourish
The Wall Street Journal / December 4, 1997

By Larry Luxner

ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada -- Dr. Bob Jordan remembers the U.S. invasion well.

An anatomy professor who arrived at Grenada's St. George's University in 1979 -- two days after the overthrow of Eric Gairy -- Jordan says the intervention was absolutely necessary to restore democracy to this Caribbean island.

"Everybody says it was a ploy to get Castro out of this country," he said. "But during the last two weeks, students' and faculty's lives were really threatened.I thought they could easily go the other way, make us hostages and set us up for a real bloodbath."

These days, things are much calmer at St. George's University, and Jordan -- who's also associate dean of admissions -- focuses on more pleasant subjects like the university's aggressive expansion plans, which will pump between $25 million and $30 million a year into the Grenadian economy.

To an observer, the impeccably neat campus, with its pastel buildings overlooking sparkling blue waters, looks more like an expensive Caribbean resort than a med school.

But the students inside are hardly relaxing.

St. George's University, founded in 1977, has 850 students, of which 70% are Americans; the rest are from 54 nations ranging from Australia to Zimbabwe. The university receives 2,200-2,400 applications a year, though seven out of eight are rejected.

"It's true that a large number of these students couldn't get into a U.S. school," Jordan concedes. "Their scores fell below what U.S. schools require. But intellectually they're superb and determined as hell to get into medicine. Our students are subjected to the same standardized tests as in the United States." In the June 1997 U.S. Medical Licensing Exam, the university's pass rate was 93%, just 1% under the U.S. average.

Some 70% of the school's graduates go into primary care (family practice, ER, pediatrics, OB-GYN), while the rest go into specialties such as orthopedic surgery or cardiology. St. George's University employs 70 full-time professors, and tuition is about $22,000 a year -- slightly less than the $25,000 charged by the University of Miami and other private institutions).

Jordan adds that "we don't have accreditation in the States and we're not looking for it," because that would mean restrictions "that would deter us from the opportunity of experimenting a little. We would just become another U.S. medical school."

Last year, the Grenadian government granted the university a charter for its School or Arts and Sciences and its School of Graduate Studies. As such, St. George's will soon offer degree programs in new areas such as hotel management, tourism, business administration, teacher training, nursing and marine biology.

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