No physical therapy doctorates for YSU

The university said students knew the program needed outside approvals.



YOUNGSTOWN — A dozen students enrolled in Youngstown State University’s doctor of physical therapy program won’t be getting their diplomas in August as they had expected.

The university hasn’t been able to secure all of the necessary approvals to award the degree, and the students were informed last week that they won’t be getting their doctorates. They will, however, get their master’s degrees.

The YSU Board of Trustees approved the doctorate program in December 2006 and the university began offering courses in January that current master’s degree candidates could take as part of the doctorate program.

The Ohio Board of Regents gave its blessing to the program in April, but the last hurdle, approval by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, hasn’t been forthcoming. The commission oversees accreditation for colleges and universities in 19 states.

Decision delayed

The commission informed the university on June 29 that it was delaying a decision on the issue until it can conduct a campus visit which won’t take place until at least February 2008.

“The university is obviously disappointed that the Higher Learning Commission has decided to delay its decision,” said Ron Cole, manager of news and information services for YSU. “We were hoping we would get all the approvals.”

The 12 master’s degree candidates who opted to seek the doctorate this year were informed, in writing, before they started the special doctorate classes that the degree was pending regents and Higher Learning Commission approvals, Cole said.

Those students deferred receiving their master’s degrees at May graduation, opting instead to continue to take courses with hopes of earning their doctorates in August, he said.

Helping those affected

The university will continue to seek commission approval but that might not come before June 2008 or as late as fall 2008, Cole said.

YSU will do what it can to help the 12 affected students, he said, noting that the university is also beginning the process of seeking a transitional Doctorate of Physical Therapy program (designed for those who already hold master’s degrees).

However, that would also require approval by the regents and the commission, which could be a lengthy process, Cole said.

The 12 students were taking summer courses to complete their degree work and YSU will give them refunds for the seven credit hours of courses in which they were enrolled for the second half of the summer semester, Cole said.

If the university gets the transitional program, it will also give those students four free credit hours if they enroll in that program to complete their doctorates, he said.

What happens now

YSU is also looking at helping them complete their doctorates elsewhere, he said.

All 12 will receive their master’s degrees in August and be eligible to take their board exams and seek employment as physical therapists, Cole said.

David Denton, 24, of Struthers, is in his third year in the master’s degree program and isn’t one of those affected by the doctorate issue — at least not yet.

He said the university was up front with the students from the beginning, saying that the doctorate program hinged on getting all of the necessary approvals, and students were kept informed of the progress toward that goal.

Denton, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from YSU, said he intends to continue taking the university’s doctorate classes in hopes that final approval from the Higher Learning Commission will come in time for him to earn his doctorate in August 2008.

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