At the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) Annual Meeting in June 2010 in Portland, Oregon, as I chatted with undergraduate Program Directors (PDs), I detected a disturbing trend in admissions to our Health Care Management (HMCN) programs. Almost to a person, PDs complained bitterly about the declining GPAs of students transferring in from community colleges. While PDs were aware that states have an obligation to enable its citizens to move from two-year to four-year institutions in as seamless a manner as possible, there was consensus that there are some seams that should not be crossed. Community college students are required to have at least a 2.0 GPA to graduate from a two-year program. However, what appears to be happening is that when students know they will not be able to graduate due to low GPAs, they game the system and transfer in with 54 credits and GPAs below 2.0. That’s less than a C; we’re talking D averages. Even more astonishing is the fact that the four-year institutions are accepting them with these low GPAs. Why would a college or university do that?
Cash. Dinero. Geld. Money. Pure and simple.
When I investigated, I discovered there were large federal financial incentives for students to attend 4 year colleges and universities. These revenues can be windfalls to institutions struggling with furloughs, travel cuts and other financial cut backs. Why not take advantage of them? This may all be good in theory--that is, until these low GPA students hit courses for which they are under-prepared and there is no infrastructure in place to support them. So, bottom line, students are accepted that the universities know are low performers, take their money and then, give them little to no assistance when they struggle.
How is this not like the mortgage industry extending credit to those they knew they could not pay their monthly bills? What makes higher education immune from questions of integrity and moral behavior?
The HCMN PDs are particularly frustrated because, in many instances, unlike Nursing, they are not allowed to screen low-performing students out of their programs. Why? Because the field does not have a standardized exam to point to and say that graduates must pass this to practice. To name but a few disciplines that require or encourage an exam to provide proof of competency, Nursing has NCLEX, Occupational Therapy has Certification and state licensure and Public Health has the Certified Public Health Exam. Shouldn’t our HCMN students be as knowledgeable as the people they will be working with?
Isn’t it time for HCMN Undergraduate Programs to raise the bar?
What do you think?
- Sharon B. Buchbinder, RN, PhD