By MARGARET FOSMOE
South Bend Tribune
Some doctoral degree programs may be coming to Indiana’s public four-year regional university campuses.
Meeting at Indiana University South Bend late last week, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education approved a revised policy governing the roles and missions of Indiana’s eight regional public college campuses, including Indiana University Southeast in New Albany.
The primary focus of regional campuses will continue to be providing bachelor’s degree programs.
However, the policy now states that under exceptional circumstances aligned to workforce demand, a regional campus may be approved to offer a professional practice doctoral degree program. Such a program would have to be offered collaboratively with a doctoral-research campus that already is authorized to offer such a degree.
A Doctor of Nursing Practice degree was the only such program specifically mentioned at Thursday’s meeting. The DNP degree is designed for nurses involved in any advanced practice role and is intended to prepare graduates to take on leadership positions in nursing and health care.
Five research universities in Indiana have DNP programs.
Uric Dufrene, executive vice chancellor of academic affairs at IU Southeast, said while there are no plans to add doctoral programs at New Albany’s campus immediately, it’s something the campus would consider.
“We're pleased the commission is heading in this direction; offering practical doctoral degrees on our campus would be an exciting opportunity. At the same time, we also understand there is much work to be done on this front,” Dufrene said in an email. “Our campus is committed to serving the educational needs of Southern Indiana and Greater Louisville, and right now our primary academic mission is undergraduate education and selected graduate programs.
“We are still monitoring economic trends and regional needs to ensure that we have a proper mix of academic programming. If there is a market need, and if IU Southeast can help, we will always be open to such opportunities.”
Regional campuses are becoming the campuses of first choice for many Hoosiers, Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers told board members. Educating a high number of students who have families and jobs, regional campuses must continue to evolve with more flexible schedules and online learning opportunities in order to serve those students, Lubbers said.
The state is putting increasing emphasis on helping students complete a full-time course load and graduate on time. Campus funding is now determined, in part, by student retention and graduation rates.
In other business, the commission late this month will release its 2013 "Return on Investment” report showing prospective earnings for graduates in specific programs at each Indiana public college. It’s designed to help students and their families make wise choices about college and career prospects.
Commission member Christopher Murphy III, of South Bend, said he hopes the reports won’t sway students away from majoring in certain fields, such as the liberal arts.
“We hire a lot of English majors and anthropologists,” said Murphy, who is chairman of 1st Source Corp., parent company of 1st Source Bank. “This is not just about being trained, it’s about being educated.”
Indiana’s total undergraduate public college enrollment is 255,677 this fall, down about 3.6 percent from fall 2012, likely because of the improving economy and more available jobs, according to commission staff.
— Staff Writer Jerod Clapp contributed to this article.