Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham
Launching of Freeport Campus
Freeport, Grand Bahama
20 February, 2009
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I extend a very warm welcome to the Members of the Board of DeVry University and Ross University and to the faculty, staff and student body of Ross University who have gathered to officially launch this Freeport campus.
I am happy to be here today, some seven months after joining you here last July to welcome Ross University to Grand Bahama.
We have spent the better part of the last seven months fine-tuning the terms and conditions under which Ross University will operate in The Bahamas.
It has not always been easy but, as they say, some things are worth fighting for.
I believe that the decision by Ross University to locate a clinical education site in Grand Bahama bodes well for this island and for The Bahamas.
I should like to acknowledge that the Grand Bahama Port Authority very early on recognized the potential of this undertaking and hence became staunch promoters of the project.
I acknowledge and thank the Port Authority for its continued commitment to the development and expansion of economic opportunities in Grand Bahama.
I should also like to note that the establishment of this educational institution represents another important step forward in the diversification of the Bahamian economy which has been on-going for many years.
Indeed, the creation of Freeport a half century ago was centred on the idea of economic diversification.
I am happy to say that during my Government’s first term of office, great strides were made in this direction, including the establishment of the Container Port and the Shipyard.
Now we are adding education as another sector of our diversified economy.
Clearly, Grand Bahama and The Bahamas is fortunate to have attracted this new enterprise, especially in these difficult economic times.
The operation of Ross University will open many new opportunities for Bahamians, whether facilitating access to medical training, providing new employment opportunities in faculty, staff and support roles, or in spin-off business opportunities flowing from the need to provide supplies and services to the school, its staff and students.
The University is making good progress in fulfilling its commitment to the Government to create employment opportunities for Bahamians at all levels of its operation.
Ross University expects that its 2009 payroll will exceed $4 million.
So far, the University has 21 faculty and deans, including Bahamian Rhodes scholar, Dr. Desiree Cox.
Over 20 administrative staff positions have been filled by Bahamians.
Ross is also honouring its commitment to provide scholarships to Bahamian students.
I now call on all the residents of Grand Bahama to reciprocate the confidence Ross University has demonstrated in us by putting your best foot forward in hosting this international academic institution.
Those of you who are employed by the University must be diligent in your work and maintain the highest level of professionalism not only during these difficult economic times but at all times.
Those who benefit by providing goods and services must let excellence be your standard – at all times.
And I urge the entire Grand Bahama community to be especially welcoming and hospitable as our Bahamian culture and tradition demands – at all times.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
As I noted last year, this medical programme commences as a clinical education site of the Ross University’s medical programme in Dominica.
It is meant to accommodate the increased enrolment at the medical school that can no longer be accommodated at the original campus.
Already some 200 students have been registered to commence study at Freeport this year; that number is expected to climb substantially over the next three years.
I am told that students enrolled at the Freeport site are in the 3rd and 4th semesters of a 10-semester programme.
Each will have previously completed a full four-year undergraduate degree and the first two semesters of their medical programme in Dominica.
These students are expected to spend the next eight months of their programme in Freeport where emphasis is to be placed on preparing them for entering the clinical component of their training in the United States.
Ross reports that it has created a state-of-the-art clinically-oriented education centre that makes extensive use of sophisticated learning technology including a human simulation learning suite.
The University is currently working with the Rand Hospital and Public Hospitals Authority to ensure that the students have valuable educational experiences at the Rand.
Also, Ross has undertaken to make available to the PHA and the Rand, some of its medical education resources.
We look forward to the commencement of construction on the University’s administrative and academic facilities at its permanent campus in the near future.
I am told that the University continues to work with the Grand Bahamas Port Authority with a view to completing the specific plans for the Britannia campus location.
This planning process is expected to be completed late this year to be followed by the design and then the construction of the first buildings on the permanent campus.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Ross estimates that its overall direct economic impact on the local economy -- spending on housing, food, transportation and other direct living expenses -- will be in excess of $10 million dollars in the initial year of operation.
As an example, all medical students presently enrolled in classes reside in rental accommodations, most from landlords who own less than four units.
It is estimated that rents will pump some $2.6 million into the economy this year.
Ross University advised us that they typically construct on-campus student housing for about 30% of their enrolment.
Such student housing construction is still several years out.
So while typically 70% of the student body is required to find living accommodation off-campus, in the immediate future that requirement will be 100%.
Bahamians engaged in, or interested in entering, the rental home market have an excellent opportunity to assist in providing this housing.
And so, I emphasize that now would be the time to begin to explore options with the University and with local construction and development companies so as to maximize the benefit to the Grand Bahamian economy.
And of course, Grand Bahama’s tourism sector can also expect to benefit from the travel to and from Freeport by staff, students and their families.
I want to reiterate our welcome to the pioneering students of this clinical education site and express our hope that theirs will be an excellent educational and social experience in The Bahamas.
On behalf of the Government and people of The Bahamas I extend very best wishes to the principals of Ross University and their parent corporation DeVry Inc.