Ensuring Your Institution Adequately Supports Your PA Program

Updated: Feb 4

As you approach the development of your ARC-PA application, there are important considerations that must be documented to ensure a successful site visit and commission decision. Using Institutional Support Standard A1.02 as a guide is a necessity for your program to thrive.

Let’s examine a couple successful strategies Massey & Martin, LLC has used with numerous PA Programs regarding documentation of institutional support based on Institutional Support Standard A1.02.

According to Standard A1.02, “The sponsoring institution is responsible for...”

"a) Supporting the planning by program faculty of curriculum design, course selection, and program assessment”

In order to document an institution is supporting planning by program faculty, Massey & Martin, LLC recommends assembling meeting minutes between the program director and the direct report. In addition, any university- or college-based meetings in which decisions are made regarding the PA program curriculum should be included as an exhibit. Remember, program assessment goes beyond ARC-PA related requirements.

Utilize annual reports and other exhibits demonstrating connectivity between the program assessment and the university- or college-wide assessment process. Include meeting minutes between the program and institutional research/assessment offices.

For example, Massey & Martin, LLC had institutional research run an analysis of the job market in Michigan for an institution with which they were working. This analysis was an invaluable resource as the program contemplated enrollment expansion.

"d) Complying with ARC-PA accreditation Standards and policies”

It is essential to document meeting minutes between the program personnel and executive leadership to ensure compliance is clearly documented.

We have all used the “ARC-PA” card when talking to deans and provost. Educating senior leadership about the standards often leads to greater understanding and better compliance by the university. Be prepared in advance by having benchmarking information and evidence ready when speaking to a senior academic official. Document the results of your request to higher administration.

Excellent communication skills are essential in these awkward and stressful circumstances. It is important to not overreact or allow emotions to cloud your judgment. Present the facts and your evidence clearly. Don’t expect an immediate response; follow up in a reasonable amount of time in case your senior administrative official has any additional questions.

When the Institution Is Not Providing Adequate Support

If your institution is not supporting the PA program to maintain compliance with the standards, it is important to communicate and document the importance of gaining its support. Record meeting minutes about the request to ameliorate this problem. In your Self-Study Report, carefully document your identification of the deficiency and your request for additional resources from senior administration. This chain of evidence will serve you well as the on-site reviewers examine it and determine if an observation is appropriate.

A lack of institutional support is a very serious issue when identified by the ARC-PA. Make sure it has been clearly identified in your Self-Study Report. As the PA program director, be proactive about the PA Program’s interaction with senior administration. Remember, requesting another faculty member may not be directly tied to the standards if you have sufficient FTEs according to the standards. Your evidence regarding sufficiency will substantiate whether the program has insufficient faculty.

Scott and Helen both have experienced these issues during our careers, so we understand this can be stressful and awkward. We hope these suggestions might be helpful as you approach documentation of compliance for standard A1.02.

Case Study

Massey & Martin, LLC was working with a provisionally accredited program. In the original pro forma, the program was projected to receive a fifth faculty FTE at the beginning of the third year of operation. However, the Dean refused to include this budgetary item, stating that the PA Program met the standards with a sufficient number of PA faculty.

The program was given the following recommendations:

1. To conduct a survey of both the faculty and students regarding assessment of faculty and staff sufficiency (appendix 13-I, 4th Edition Standards).

2. Complete an in-depth workload projection

3. Evaluate faculty student ratios for critical lab, such as history and physical examination, etc.

The results of the faculty and student survey demonstrated scores below benchmark for sufficiency of faculty. The history and physical lab sections were at a 15:1 ratio. Allocation of teaching workload was resulting in overload due to inadequate FTE.

This evidence was presented to the Dean, who subsequently approved the FTE line. More importantly, this process demonstrated the program's ability to self-assess and provide adequate evidence to overturn the original decision. The results of this strengthened the program self-study report.

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