COLUMBIA — At a time when universities across the state have stopped offering redundant degree programs, a proposal to add a new health sciences degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City has raised some questions about the need for a program that duplicates one already offered at MU.
UMKC wants to add a bachelor's degree in health sciences, similar to a degree offered in Columbia since 2008 that will be entirely available online by the end of this year, The Columbia Tribune reported Wednesday.
The UM System Board of Curators last week unanimously approved UMKC's health sciences degree. The vote came less than two months after the Missouri Department of Higher Education approved dropping 119 degrees offered at the state's universities that were considered unnecessary or redundant.
The MU program could "absolutely" serve students who now might decide to attend UMKC, said Cheri Ghan, a spokeswoman for MU's School of Health Professions.
"We developed the program here with the thinking that anyone anywhere could participate in our school and be in this degree program because of the online capability," Ghan said.
Proponents of the new program in Kansas City say distance education doesn't work for all students. And those in the Kansas City program could work with hospitals and clinics UMKC already partners with, said Steve Graham, vice president of academic affairs for the UM System.
Health sciences degrees are offered to those who aren't admitted to or don't want to pursue a clinical professional program but are interested in health careers. They often work in careers such as insurance, medical equipment and pharmaceutical sales.
About 1,100 students weren't admitted to 22 nursing programs in the Kansas City area last year, Wilson said.
"Those students didn't have the option of doing anything anywhere else," said Thad Wilson, interim dean of the UMKC School of Nursing. "They clearly wanted to be in Kansas City, so this is another option for them. We feel like we've got a population here that may not be thinking about a program such as the one in Columbia."
UMKC plans to enroll more than 95 new students to the program each year.
More than 670 students are now pursuing the three-year degree at MU.
The Department of Higher Education will review the UMKC proposal and the Coordinating Board for Higher Education will determine if it's approved. Department spokeswoman Kathy Love expects the degree to be approved.
"Graduating more students in health-related fields is a priority for the state, so I doubt expanding to UMKC would get much serious scrutiny," she said.