Many community college students today understand all too well the frustration of trying to put together a schedule each semester, but finding themselves on waiting lists
. The overload leaves numerous students requiring more time to complete their degrees – and postpones their opportunities in the professional, post-academic world.
One community college has come up with what they believe is a solution to this collegiate quandary.
A Proposal by the Princeton Review
The idea comes from the Princeton Review, a company that had previously been primarily involved in assessments and standardized test preparation. Since the acquisition of Penn Foster, a career training provider, a few months ago, the Princeton Review has jumped into the world of continuing education. Like a few other for-profit colleges
, Princeton Review is currently in the process of teaming up with community colleges that offer allied healthcare degrees
to provide faster access to degrees. These programs will come at a higher price tag than standard programs at the same institutions, providing both the college and the Princeton Review with a healthy profit margin as well.
The Princeton Review asserts that there are long waiting lists for healthcare degree programs today. By offering an additional option to students anxious to jumpstart their professional careers, community colleges can successfully get healthcare professionals into an industry that desperately needs them.
Opponents to the fast track idea argue that charging higher tuition fees puts some students at a disadvantage, and the program does not carry out the mission originally intended for community colleges across the country.
The Need for Healthcare Professionals
There is no question that this country is indeed requiring more healthcare professionals to meet the needs of communities. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were more than 6,200 areas in the United States with health professional shortages at the end of the previous year. These areas boast a population of more than 65 million people total. There were also close to 3,300 areas with mental health professional shortages.
Unfortunately, statistics also paint a rather bleak picture when it comes to training new professionals to take their places in the healthcare industry. According to an article on Medical News Today
, professional schools are unable to meet the demands for health care workers in the near future. Reasons for this inability include:
· Lack of state funding
· Insufficient number of trained instructors
· Limited space for clinical training
Few resources mean limits on the number of students most community colleges can accept into their healthcare programs each year. Michael Perik, president and CEO of the Princeton Review, told USA Today, "Many community colleges have long waiting lists for programs in the health care fields and they don't have the capacity to meet this current demand."
John J. Sbrega, Bristol Community College’s president, concurs. He states that last year, his college received about 1,000 applications for the 72 openings currently available in Bristol's nursing program
. The hope is that this new fast track program would allow some of those interested in the health care industry to pay a little more to begin their career a little sooner.
How the Fast Track Program Works
As part of the agreement with the Princeton Review, Bristol College will receive about $2 million to build a new college facility in New Bedford and develop curriculum and technology necessary for online classes. The college also hopes to add approximately 24 more faculty members to their staff roster, which would increase the number of students they could accept into their program.
Students who wanted to take advantage of the "fast track" program would agree to pay a higher tuition rate in exchange for moving to the top of waiting lists to get the classes required for graduation. Students who invest in this program would receive degrees after just two years of study. Sbrega expects the program to strengthen the Massachusetts economy that is struggling with both a health industry shortage of professionals and a high unemployment rate.
The Princeton Review is using Bristol Community College
as a testing ground for their new program. If the "fast track" idea works well there, the company has plans to expand their program across the country. They have spoken with 15 other community colleges that have voiced an interest in the optional program. If the program takes off, many more college students may have additional options in earning their degrees and getting into the workforce as quickly as possible.