Degree changes in PASSHE spread statewide

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018 at 4:22 PM

Since July 2015, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Board of Governors has approved 59 new degree programs, stretching across 12 of the 14 state universities. Additionally, in the last three years, “the universities have reorganized more than 400 degree, minor and certificate programs and have either placed in moratorium or discontinued more than 370 programs no longer in demand,” according to PASSHE’s Media Relations Manager, Kenn Marshall. 

These changes have been part of the effort to realign PASSHE schools’ degree programs with the demand in the Pennsylvania workforce. A related study, conducted by the Georgetown University Center on education and the workforce, addressed various statistics about gaps between degrees awarded and jobs in the workforce.  

According to the study, by the year 2020, 1/3 of job openings in Pennsylvania will require at least a bachelor’s degree, and recently, more than 1/5 of bachelor’s degrees in Pennsylvania were awarded by one of the 14 PASSHE schools.  

In the 2016-17 academic year, PASSHE created action plans for the majority of the state universities. At the time of the plan, there were 45 bachelor degree programs at Edinboro, with 31 of those having a “total of 30 or more completers over the previous 5 years,” which is 69 percent. Philadelphia-adjacent school, West Chester, had numbers drastically different. 

West Chester has 54 degree programs, 49 of which had a total of 30 or more completers over the previous 5 years, sitting at 91 percent.  

And a key to figuring out workforce demand seems to lie with universities like West Chester, along with the cities they border. 

The City-Adjacent Schools

The Georgetown study concluded that “almost three-quarters of [state] college educated workers live in southeast or southwest Pennsylvania, generally in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metropolitan areas.” 

Since July 2015, city-adjacent university West Chester has added 11 new degree programs, Slippery Rock, 14, and Kutztown, 7. 

Some of the approved programs for West Chester have included: a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering, a Master of Science in transformative education and social change, a master’s of urban and regional planning, a doctorate of psychology in clinical psychology, a Bachelor of Science in international business, and a Master of Science in community nutrition.  

“West Chester University is a comprehensive university — to offer those kinds of opportunities because we’re comprehensive, because engineering is a large part of the workforce and continuing to be, we made a commitment to expand that,” Dr. Anthony Nicastro, chairperson of the department of physics and engineering at West Chester said of the newly added biomedical engineering program.  

He continued: “[In the] southeast, there’s a lot of pharmaceutical and biomedical companies, [so] it was natural for us to think of biomedical engineering simply because of where we are. We wanted to expand in a field that offers employment opportunities.” 

The school has also proposed a Bachelor of Arts in linguistics, a Bachelor of Arts in peace and conflict studies, a Master of Science in financial economics and a doctoral program in public health for the 2018-19 academic year.  

According to a 2016 supply and demand gap analysis for the West Chester region, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry is projecting large growth in certain fields by 2024: home health care services (58.4 percent), specialty (except psychiatric and substance abuse) hospitals (40.7 percent), individual and family services (36.4 percent) and other financial investment activities (35.1 percent).  

The analysis also states that between 2010 and 2014, West Chester’s workforce region had large growth in certain areas that were already popular amongst students. These are: healthcare practitioners and technical occupations, and computer and mathematical occupations.

 Employment projections for occupations aligning with bachelor’s and graduate degrees in the workforce region list 12 occupations as growing between now and 2024 with three occupations decreasing. Some of the top projected growing occupations are: personal financial advisors (45.6 percent); software developers and applications (36 percent); and computer systems analysts (34.9 percent).  

The three projected decreasing occupations are sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products (-8.4 percent); secondary school teachers, except special and career or technical education (-6.5 percent); and elementary school teachers, except special education (-2.3 percent).  

Edinboro’s Program Plans

Edinboro has approved one new degree program recently (with more programs sent to the Board of Governors for approval).

Edinboro University conducted its own gap analysis through the working groups founded under university President Dr. H. Fred Walker during the 2016-17 academic year, resulting in the loss or transformation of current programs or the possible addition of new ones (universities are also allowed to revise or merge programs without board approval).

According to Edinboro’s action plan, programs under possible consideration for addition to Edinboro by the Board of Governors currently are a Bachelor of Science in applied leadership, a Bachelor of Science in health science, a Bachelor of Science in brewing and fermentation science, a Bachelor of Science in actuarial science, a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Science in physician assistant practice and two post-baccalaureate certificates in financial planning and public accounting. 

Additionally, the university proposed four programs to the board for consideration in the 2018-19 year: a Bachelor of Arts in art therapy, a Bachelor of Arts in social media management, a Bachelor of Science in cyber security and a master’s degree in public administration.  

These new degrees would correspond with a 2016 PASSHE report about Edinboro’s supply and demand gap analysis, where there are multiple occupations that will see an increase in demand between 2014 and 2024 in Edinboro’s workforce region, including: physical therapists (36.9 percent), market research analysts and marketing specialists (25.8 percent) and recreation workers (24.4 percent).  

Three occupations will see a decrease in the same 10-year time period: secondary school teachers, except special and career or technical education (-10.8 percent); sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products (-1.7 percent); and elementary school teachers, except special education (-6.2 percent). 

As of Fall 2017, there were 650 students in Edinboro’s School of Education. 

Workforce moving forward

Another report about Pennsylvania’s overall workforce, the top three industries that will see increases between 2014 and 2024 are stated to be individual and family services (34.9 percent), employment services (31.4 percent) and management of companies and enterprises (14.1 percent). The sectors that will see a projected decrease are elementary and secondary school education (-3.1 percent) and executive, legislative, and other general government support (-3.6 percent). 

Earlier this year, the state system also approved a new program for nearby Slippery Rock: a doctorate of occupational therapy.   

According to a press release from April, this program addition matches another need: “the state Department of Aging estimates that the number of Pennsylvania residents aged 65 or older will climb to 19 percent of the state’s population by 2020 and to 23 percent by 2030, for a total increase of 1 million people over 20 years.”  

In addition, Slippery Rock proposed five bachelor degree programs, five master degree programs, one doctoral degree program, 10 certificates and one minor for board approval for 2017-18. Similarly, the school proposed seven bachelor degree programs, 12 master degree programs and 18 minors for 2018-19. Some of these are similar to Edinboro’s proposed programs, including: a Bachelor of Science in health psychology, a Bachelor of Science in cyber security, a Master of Science in accounting and a Master of Science in health psychology. 

“Our universities continue to be forward thinking and innovative in redesigning their academic programs to meet the evolving needs of students, their future employers and the Commonwealth,” said former PASSHE Chancellor Frank T. Brogan in a July 2017 press release. “We are convinced that these programs will prepare a new generation of students for success.”

Dakota Palmer is the news editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at

Tags: news, edinboro, passhe

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