ST. CLOUD (WJON News) -- The Minnesota State Legislature is chipping in to help create a new medical school in St. Cloud.

The Higher Education bill that is on its way to the governor's desk included $10 million to train doctors for practice in rural Minnesota.

The medical school is a collaboration between CentraCare and the University of Minnesota.

St. Cloud Senator Aric Putnam says the program is needed to help staff our rural hospitals.

About 11 percent of physicians practice in rural areas and about one-third of those people are going to retire in the next five years.  We have a desperate need for health care professionals in greater Minnesota.

Putnam says CentraCare and the U of M were asking for $65 million, but will settle for the $10 million. That money will be used for the expensive accreditation process as well as hiring the initial staff members. Scholarships and a dorm facility may have to be delayed or scaled back. Putnam says the program is a big win for St. Cloud.

We're looking a producing 20 to 25 doctors every year out of this collaboration.  All of them are going to be focused on greater Minnesota and rural areas where the need is so profound.  These are going to be people living in our community and going to our restaurants, it's going to be a real game changer for our community.

The medical school will be an extension of the existing University of Minnesota Medical Schools in the Twin Cities and Duluth. Earlier this year both the CentraCare Board of Directors and the University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved the partnership. They both will also be supporting it financially.

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It could be up and running as soon as 2025.

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