Bill allows for new doctoral programs

Caitlin Carter

This fall, 30 students are expected to enter as the inaugural class of the doctorate in the physical therapy program at WKU.

During the last session of the Kentucky General Assembly, legislation passed that will allow WKU to create a doctoral degree in the physical therapy program.

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Senate Bill 130 was approved by the Senate, 34-2, in February and was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives on March 4, said Robbin Taylor, vice president for Public Affairs.

The bill will allow universities across the state of Kentucky to offer up to three advanced practice doctorate degree programs, according to the bill.

Taylor said WKU is considering the doctor of physical therapy program, the educational leadership doctoral program and the doctor of nursing practice, among other programs.

She said the next step in the legislative process is getting the bill signed by Governor Steve Beshear.

“I don’t know when the governor will sign SB 130,” Taylor said. “The last communication I received was that they were hoping to get to it (Wednesday). We are monitoring that.”

President Gary Ransdell said discussion about a particular number of programs only came up this year as the University of Kentucky became engaged in the subject of practice-based doctorates.

Ransdell said practice-based doctorate degree programs, unlike research-based programs, prepare students for work in a particular field that requires a license. All three programs that will be offered by WKU are practice-based.

Schools like the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville have oftentimes expressed displeasure in other universities in the state gaining more doctoral degree programs, Ransdell said.

But he said this rivalry is not of great importance to WKU.

“To me, this is irrelevant,” Ransdell said. “I don’t think we need to be worrying about what kind of institution UK or U of L or any other institution is. We need to address our needs and what Kentucky needs.”

Ransdell said what Kentucky needs right now is more physical therapists.

“The first students will graduate in 2015 — one year after national healthcare legislation,” he said. “This will create about 500,000 more insured Kentuckians. There’s a shortage of therapists now, so you can only imagine what the demand will be like then.”

The program will be financially self-sufficient, with tuition expected to be $18,000, Ransdell said.

“No other program will have to worry about this program draining funds away from them,” he said.

During the General Assembly, Senate Bill 7 was passed, which also impacts higher education, Taylor said.

Known as the transparency bill, universities will now be required to provide certain financial information and board minutes on their websites, Taylor said.

She said WKU has now implemented this, and a section for the information will soon be created for the home page.