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Board OKs Graduate-Degree Proposal, PCEA Contract Amendment

The Pennsylvania College of Technology Board of Directors on Thursday endorsed a graduate-degree proposal related to the Physician Assistant Program and approved an amendment to the Penn College Education Association contract to allow for implementation of a Consumer Driven Health Plan system.

Pending additional approvals, there could be Penn College students enrolled in a master’s degree program for physician assistant by Fall 2018.

Before the college can offer the master’s degree for physician assistant, its implementation must again be approved by the Penn College Board of Directors, as well as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Thursday's board meeting recapped for Penn College community
Thursday’s board meeting recapped for Penn College community

Currently, the Penn College Physician Assistant Program is a four-year baccalaureate-degree offering. By 2020, the accrediting agency for physician assistant education will require all students entering college in the career field to be enrolled in graduate-level programs.

Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour said the college is not exploring graduate programs for other disciplines – such as a Master of Business Administration or a Master of Education.

“We are not going to do things that other people are doing. … It (physician assistant) is the only program we are looking at,” the president said, adding the program’s leadership and faculty have established the proper culture for proceeding with an advanced-degree offering.

Paul L. Starkey, vice president for academic affairs/provost, said the college’s current systems will easily accommodate a graduate-level program for physician assistant, and the program will fit the college’s educational mission. “We are ready to move forward,” he said.

In the only other action item, the board voted in favor of an amendment to the PCEA contract that is needed to allow faculty to participate in a CDHP system for the college’s hospitalization and medical insurance plan. Faculty voted to approve the change earlier this month.

Gilmour described the switch to a CDHP system as “a monumental change to our health care” that will provide the same level of care at a significant savings to the institution.

“It will save us at least $2 million in the coming fiscal year,” she told the board.

A presentation on financial aid at Penn College was provided to the board by Dennis L. Correll, associate dean for financial aid/admissions. Correll addressed financial aid and scholarship trends at Penn College, as well as other services provided to students and families by the Admissions and Financial Aid offices.

Noting that Penn College students received $95 million in financial aid in 2014-15, he updated the board on concerns including the impact of delays related to the state budget and PHEAA disbursements, as well as decreased federal funding for programs that provide financial assistance to students.

Presenting on the “Stand Up, Don’t Stand By” Bystander Intervention Series at Penn College on behalf of the Bystander Intervention Committee was Jennifer McLean, associate dean of student affairs, assisted by Mallory L. Weymer, coordinator of student health and wellness education/suicide prevention specialist. The group’s leadership is transitioning to Weymer.

The initiative empowers students and employees to address negative, exclusionary and dangerous behaviors on campus and in the community. It features participation from Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, Human Resources, Penn College students and the local community.

The next Penn College Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for April 28.