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Editorial: Accelerated program good for students

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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Lately, the state of Iowa and state universities have worked to at least keep in-state tuition from rising, primarily with the tuition freeze implemented for the 2013-14 academic year, which is expected to continue in the following academic year. With that said, the cost of college is still a huge expenditure that can take several years to pay off. Fortunately, the University of Iowa College of Public Health has instituted a program that will be economically beneficial for many students.

Undergraduates studying biology, psychology, mathematical statistics, and biomedical engineering can apply to a new graduate program in the College of Public Health. It allows students to get a bachelor’s degree in their respective fields along with a master’s degree in public health that will take five years instead of the usual six. It would essentially act as an accelerated program intended for students who can learn at a faster pace. If students want to enter the program, they may apply in the middle of their junior year.

The public-health school’s new program is just one of a few similar programs offered to students studying law, social work, and engineering. The new initiative promises to save students money and will help quickly produce health professionals that the country will increasingly need in coming years. The benefits of a faster path through college are apparent enough that the UI should continue to offer more programs similar to the one instituted by the College of Public Health.

This program would effectively cut the total tuition bill for students in the program who could then start working in public health sooner. That would be an enormous boon to students who get master’s degrees in this area because many careers in the field are growing much faster than the rest of the job market and pay exceptionally well, according to the “Occupational Outlook Handbook” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Helping students graduate sooner with less debt can also help the economy overall. Because students will have accrued less debt and will be able to start working in their field one year earlier, that will allow them to begin paying off their debts earlier than with the existing system. Occupations that take a master’s degree in public health such epidemiologists receive an average annual wage of more than $60,000. All of this mean students can become debt free earlier on in life and give them additional time to spend more money.

The public-health school’s program is also good for society. As the population ages (especially in Iowa), there will be more and more demand for health-care workers. Part of this is simply due to more sick people, but many currently employed health-care professionals will soon retire, creating more room for new workers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that from 2010 to 2020, the health-care industry will grow by 33 percent, adding 5.7 million jobs nationwide. At a time when recent college graduates face widespread, albeit probably temporary, underemployment, job prospects for any reasonably competent student looking to enter the health-care industry look extremely promising.

The health-care industry is a growing sector of the economy, and helping students get into the industry faster is definitely a smart move, but it seems wise to at least consider expanding this template to the UI’s other programs that don’t yet have such options.


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