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artists rendering of the new College of Osteopathic Medicine building

Proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine Projected to Bring $1.4 Billion to Colorado’s Economy

Governor announces support of new legislation (HB24-1231) to fund four higher education health profession initiatives to address workforce need, including UNC's proposed college of medicine.

This article was updated Feb. 13, 2024, to reflect a change in the bill number from HB24-0196 to HB24-1231

The University of Northern Colorado’s proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine is expected to boost Colorado’s economy by $1.4 billion over the next 20 years, with just over half a billion of that impact ($501 million) remaining in Weld County.  

The information is detailed in a newly released economic impact report that measures just how beneficial the new medical college will be to both the state and Weld County economies from 2023, when the first operational expenditures occurred, through 2042. Beyond the 20-year timeframe of the study, the report further projects that the college will continue to positively impact Coloradans well into the future, contributing at least $197.2 million annually in added income to the state’s economy. 

"The establishment of a medical college heralds a transformative era for our city," said Greeley City Manager Raymond Lee. "It signifies a deliberate investment not only in healthcare but in our community's vitality, fostering enhanced engagement, economic growth, and meaningful partnerships across our vibrant cityscape. The addition of students, families and job opportunities will significantly contribute to the future of this community.”  

The report, conducted by Lightcast, a global leader in labor market analytics with over 20 years of experience working with institutions of higher education, measures the impact of the proposed college on the state’s economy for both short- and long-run factors. This includes $106.3 million in added income attributed to capital spending during the construction phase of the new facility, which is expected to last through 2027, as well as long-run impacts over the course of the next 20 years from operations ($356.7 million), visitor spending ($4.1 million), student spending ($202.6 million) and the higher earnings of alumni ($691.2 million).  

Over the same 20-year timeframe, taxpayer benefits are expected to exceed $83 million in added tax revenue. 

While the report confirms that the proposed college is good for the economy, UNC President Andy Feinstein emphasized that the real mission and purpose of the new medical college is to educate more students who will be prepared to meet the critical and growing demand for doctors across the state and nation.  

“UNC has long been a driver of societal and economic impacts for the region and the state,” said Feinstein. “Opening a medical college is yet another example of UNC serving as a partner and meeting an important need for the betterment of the communities we serve.” 

The Association of American Medical College projects a physician shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 across the United States by 2034. The shortage is driven by several factors — population growth, an increasing aging population that requires more health care services as they get older, as well as an aging health care workforce, of which a significant number will be at retirement age in the next few years.  

In Colorado, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration says less than 35% of Coloradans’ needs for physicians is currently being met and the Robert Graham Center forecasts that by 2030, the state will need an additional 1,773 primary-care physicians.  

UNC's proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine is one solution that will help address that shortage as it will have the capacity to graduate an additional 150 new doctors into the workforce each year. 

"Choosing a program that focuses on osteopathic medicine is an intentional strategy on the part of our university to help address the physician shortage that we're seeing in our own state," said Dr. Beth Longenecker, founding dean of the proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine. "Sixty-one of Colorado's 64 counties have been designated as primary care health professional shortage areas. DOs are more likely to practice primary care compared to MDs and they have a long tradition of providing care in communities where patients lack doctors." 

Over the past two years, the university has made significant progress to make their vision for a new medical college a reality. Key accomplishments include submitting for applicant status with the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA), receiving statutory authorization from the state to offer specialized degree programs in osteopathic medicine, hiring a founding dean for the proposed college, obtaining the necessary clinical rotation sites and securing over $31 million in philanthropic funding to help with start-up costs. 

According to Feinstein, the next critical step of securing the remaining $170 million necessary to complete the project through an investment from the state is looking more promising than ever. On Monday, Feb. 12, Governor Polis announced his support for HB24-1231, a $247 million Certificate of Participation Bill intended to build infrastructure and increase the health professions workforce across the state by preparing more doctors, nurses, veterinarians and allied health professionals.  

The proposed legislation will provide $128 million for UNC to construct a building for the medical college, with the remaining funding going toward other healthcare workforce projects at Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado State University and Trinidad State College. The state will also use approximately $41 million of its statutory reserve to strategically invest in the escrow needs of the project, as required by COCA.  

The legislation, which has bipartisan support from Reps. Mary Young and Lindsey Daugherty and Sens. Barbara Kirkmeyer and Kyle Mullica, was introduced on Feb. 12. If it passes, UNC expects to have its first class of students in the College of Osteopathic Medicine as early as fall 2026. 

Full Economic Impact Report of the University of Northern Colorado's College of Osteopathic Medicine to Colorado

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