We are 2nd year graduate students at Mountain State University (MSU) in Beckley, WV. Mountain State University’s accreditation is being revoked by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), effective August 27, 2012. Our physician assistant program, however, has maximum accreditation by the ARC-PA until March 2017. There are 40 students in the graduation class of 2014. Without belonging to a university...
We are 2nd year graduate students at Mountain State University (MSU) in Beckley, WV. Mountain State University’s accreditation is being revoked by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), effective August 27, 2012. Our physician assistant program, however, has maximum accreditation by the ARC-PA until March 2017. There are 40 students in the graduation class of 2014. Without belonging to a university that is in good standing with the HLC, our program’s accreditation does not matter to our future, since we cannot register for classes or complete our education here. Furthermore, because we are a specialized program with an equivalent yet varied curriculum from other PA programs nationwide, we have been informed that we are NOT eligible for transfer into another program at the level we currently hold. We have also been told that even with the situation at hand, we will not receive priority application status at any other PA program. Loan forgiveness is not an option for us either, since we have to be enrolled within 90 days of the university closing… and with the current appeal that MSU is working on, that 90 day window will no longer apply to us if MSU does indeed close its doors. In addition to these things, we now have knowledge that even if our program was granted a teach out agreement, it would apply for only one year… which would thankfully be long enough to usher the class of 2013 through, but since our class still has two years left before we can graduate, we would NOT be eligible for the teach out unless MSU requests the time extension, and the HLC grants it.
MSU's PA program has long been respected due to its consistent production of competent, caring PA’s. The road is not an easy one! We have sacrificed time with our families, friends, and community in order to dedicate ourselves to this rigorous program, with the understanding that our hard work and sacrifice would eventually result in a rewarding profession that will allow us to provide the kind of quality healthcare that makes a difference in people’s lives every day. Now we know, without a teach out being granted AND extended to include our class, this possibility at this university has been ripped from us. We are, as you can imagine, collectively distraught.
Some of us have lived in this area most, if not all, of our lives.. and we want to give back to our community. Some of us have traveled far to be a part of this program because we believe in creating a healthier community when we return home. Some of us have come to WV because it is a beautiful state full of adventurous outdoor activities… and now that we are here, we call it home and plan on practicing here when we graduate. Some of us have children, and some of us want children… and have planned conception around completing the program. Some of us have reached undergraduate loan caps and some of us were counting on obtaining both the Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree upon graduation. The impact of this decision on our lives is exponential. We all have different backgrounds and different circumstances, but what we all have in common is extraordinary determination and commitment to what we believe in. We believe in this program, we believe in our instructors, we believe in each other, and we believe in providing quality healthcare when we graduate.
Our program director and faculty also believe in us, but their hands are tied in this situation. They have not, and do not, execute their decisions nor handle business in the ways MSU administration has been found guilty. They are doing what they can, and among other things, have offered to provide letters of reference as we pursue enrollment in other programs. It was a very sobering moment when we realized that we were actually being advised to apply elsewhere. This would mean starting over from scratch.. a year of classes, money, and hard work down the drain with no transfer of credits, or special consideration in any other program. In addition to the loss of that year, because of the timing of this decision, we are now extremely behind in regards to applying to other programs. PA program entry is competitive. Realistically, the best case scenario, if we are NOT granted the teach out, would be acceptance into a program beginning Fall 2013... although sometimes it can take even longer to gain admission into a PA program. This leaves 40 individuals with lives in upheaval, without employment, further in debt than they have ever been, and possibly in need of relocating themselves… and in some cases their families. Certainly if we pursue a career as a physician assistant, we will have to move - and most likely that move will be out of state because WV only has one other accredited PA program, and another with provisional accreditation (with 5 seats open at the time of this writing). All of this pain and loss is due to decisions made by the Board of Trustees and our former President, Charles Polk…. which led us to the state MSU is in today. Our program had nothing to do with the sanctions against the university, and we wish to be considered a separate entity in regards to this. Our program received maximum accreditation by the ARC-PA. This has to show that our PA faculty and administration are following the rules and achieving excellence. This has to mean something to other accrediting bodies. What we need is the opportunity to graduate, to finish our program, to make a difference. Our faculty is worthy; we are worthy.
Please, for the sake of our dedicated faculty, the class of 2013, and us - the class of 2014, consider our plea to be granted a teach out until July 2014. We want to stay here. We want to graduate from THIS program.
Thank you for your attention and time.
MSU PA Class of 2014