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New program saves time and money

BY MEGAN SANCHEZ | NOVEMBER 13, 2013 5:00 AM

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Currently, a student must complete four years of undergraduate work and then two more years of master’s education in order to receive a degree from the University of Iowa College of Public Health. However starting in the fall of 2014, one year will disappear.

The public-health school announced Monday a new undergraduate to graduate program that will allow students to complete both degrees in just five years.

College Associate Dean Mary Aquilino said the program would have many benefits for the students, and the college.

“[Students] can essentially complete two degrees in five years and save tuition,” she said. “[The program will] allow undergraduates to see that there is a graduate opportunity, and it will increase the visibility of public health across campus."

There are similar combined degree programs in other UI programs, including law, social work, and engineering.

However, this program is the first on the UI campus to combine schools — combining undergraduate and graduate studies.

Applicable major areas of study for this program include biology, psychology, mathematical statistics, and biomedical engineering. Students interested in applying to the program would apply by the middle of their junior year in their undergraduate degree.

Although this program will speed up the learning process, Aquilino said, the quality of education would not be lowered.

“We are choosing students to enroll that are capable of an accelerated pace,” she said. “Our intent is to seriously consider each applicant and have fairly rigorous standards for admission. I hope that looking for stellar students will prove that [five-year completion] is possible.”

A peer institution is implementing a similar program for its College of Public Health.

The Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona has an approved program for the environmental track in the college. It is referred to as a “four plus one” plan.

Arizona College of Public Health Division Director Jeff Burgess said he agrees students who enter the program should be prepared to take higher-level courses at a younger age.

 “I think for a students who know exactly what they want to do, this is a great option, because it allows them to get out into the workforce a year earlier than they might have,” he said. “I think that for people who don’t know exactly what they want to do or are not certain, then the more traditional track would be better.”

UI second-year graduate student in public health Marcus Barlow said he wishes he could have taken advantage of this opportunity.

“It probably would’ve saved me a lot of money and a lot of time,” he said. “I would have already completed my master’s degree and been out in the workforce. It also would’ve created a fast track for where I want to get in my life.”

Barlow said with topics such as heart disease and obesity becoming increasingly important, now is a good time to get involved in the field.

“I think [the program] will succeed because this is becoming a huge issue in the U.S. and nationwide,” he said. “Things that haven’t been on the forefront are becoming more present because we are seeing people dying and suffering because of disease.”


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