How BGSU’s Physical Therapy Program Increased Access and Cohort Diversity

Higher education institutions across America face declining enrollments, but some are bucking the trend through creative modernizations. Bowling Green State University (BGSU), for example, has boosted enrollments by 14% over 10 years by expanding in-demand offerings.

One of the key strategies BGSU has utilized has been applying EIM’s hybrid accelerated education model to their Doctor of Physical Therapy program. The model increases access for non-traditional students, helps address diversity gaps, while extending geographic reach and financial sustainability for institutions.

In a recent webcast, BGSU President Dr. Rodney Rogers explained how strategic partnerships help unlock innovation, achieve scale quickly and share risk in uncertain and complex new program areas.

Overcoming Key Barriers Through Collaboration

Rather than go it alone, BGSU partnered with EIM to develop an innovative DPT program. This online-hybrid model combines digital instruction with intensive on-campus labs, also leveraging EIM’s national clinical placement network.

As EIM co-founder John Childs outlined, specialized clinical programs like physical therapy pose major independent development barriers for universities. These include scarce faculty recruitment bandwidth, accreditation intricacies, and limited clinical placement opportunities.

“If you’re going down the path of trying to launch programs on your own, the two biggest hurdles you’ll face are recruiting faculty and securing enough clinical sites to enroll more than 30 to 35 students in a cohort,” said Childs. “Institutions reach out to us as a partner to help them launch these programs at scale in a way that’s faster than they could if they did it on their own.”

Accelerated Model Facilitates Scale & Diversity

This accelerated two-year hybrid model benefits students through faster completion than traditional three-year programs. However, the unique model still delivers on the in-person, hands-on components that facilitate close student bonds.

In addition, the approach promotes diversity by unlocking access. EIM conducts holistic admissions assessments alongside applicant background. This helps attract promising students from underserved regions who couldn’t otherwise uproot for a campus program.

Of BGSU’s 163 trailblazing DPT students so far, 61% come from out-of-state and 34% are non-white/students of color. “This program is meeting the needs of society, and the needs of the profession,” said President Rogers. “34% of our student population are students of color and in the physical therapy profession there is a real issue of not having appropriate balance of individuals with a variety of different backgrounds.”

Positive Early Returns Setting Stage for Wider Adoption

President Rogers revealed the accelerated hybrid model is already “running ahead of projection” financially after just two years, with enrollment ramp vastly exceeding initial targets. This early success helped overcome initial skepticism about practical barriers like faculty hiring and clinical placement logistics at scale.

Given these tangible upside demonstrations, Rogers said the administration is now receptive towards applying the specialized partnership approach more widely. BGSU is exploring utilizing the hybrid accelerated model for another highly in-demand health care discipline, building on the success of the PT program and further aligning to student lifestyle needs and equitable access imperatives in higher education and health care professions.

Final Thoughts

As universities strive to fulfill accessibility missions amidst a challenging environment, specialized collaborations allow accelerated innovation in high-value fields like health care. The initial promise of such pioneering accelerated hybrid models suggests universities may increasingly future-proof sustainability by leveraging partners’ expertise.

Yet, it is crucial to ensure accountability, grounding these collaborations in alignment with public priorities through effective structuring. If the initial successes of programs like BGSU DPT to propel equal access improvements for underserved students seeking alternative education models, these partnerships could ignite a renaissance that extends throughout the entire purpose of higher education.