Make or Break Compliance Part 2: ARC-PA Standard A3.13
By Jim Pearson and Dr. Scott Massey
Welcome back to PA Admissions Corner. In our previous Issue, we began discussing the ARC-PA Standards that apply to the admissions process. In this Issue, we’ll conclude the topic by examining the most frequently misunderstood standard: A3.13.
Some ARC-PA Standards can be easy to misunderstand on their face. The greater challenge often lies in gauging the level of commitment required to meet the Standard. ARC-PA Standard A3.13 is especially challenging in this regard, which is why it’s the most frequently misunderstood Accreditation Requirement.
Standard A3.13 can make or break your admissions process if not correctly addressed. Let’s examine each of the requirements of the standard, then look at some key concepts to clarify how to interpret and achieve each one.
Your program’s website will be the primary resource for applicants to review and gain a thorough understanding of your program’s practices. Clearly link those practices on your landing page. Remember, your policies are not meant to be a puzzle for your applicants to solve. Be clear, concise, and straightforward.
A3.13 (a) through (e)
✔ The program must define, publish, consistently apply, and make readily available to prospective students, policies, and procedures to include:
a) admission and enrollment practices that favor specified individuals or groups (if applicable)
PA program directors often do not properly apply the spirit of this standard. It doesn’t say that you can’t favor specific groups of students, but you have to properly communicate the fact that you are favoring these groups of people in your admissions process.
For example, if you have a matriculation agreement with a specific institution to accept a designated proportion of its graduating students each year, that arrangement needs to be stated on your website. If you are emphasizing diversity, that needs to be adequately defined on the website, too. Other favored groups may include those with military experience, patient contact hours, and GPA. This way, you can seek out more of your “ideal applicants” by letting specific groups know that your program is interested in their experience.
b) admission requirements regarding prior education or work experience
Prior work/education requirements, like healthcare experience hours needed for qualifying for your program, must be adequately specific. It’s in your interested to display the minimum with enough specificity for prospective students to understand.
By the same token, be clear that meeting the minimum requirement does not automatically guarantee consideration. Most programs have students that exceed the minimum, and most programs define required prior education in terms of a baccalaureate degree and specific prerequisite courses. This also needs to be specific enough for prospective students to fully understand the requirements. For example, does your program require labs for science courses? Is there a specific expiration date for your prerequisite courses?
If your program undergoes a policy change like new admissions requirements, this change should promptly be incorporated into your program’s accessible information. Always allow sufficient time for applicants to capably meet the new requirement before the application submission. It would be unfair to expect applicants to have achieved a new GPA requirement, number of credit hours, or a particular amount of experience that your website only began including in its accessible information a month ago. PA programs often forget to include admissions changes on their website.
c) practices for awarding or granting advanced placement
Failing to apply this aspect of the Standard properly has resulted in significant consequences for programs. Carefully consider whether you are granting advanced placement to any students, like accepting students from medical school and fast-tracking them into your program. Successful advanced placement needs to have significant equivalency processes and assessment in place to ensure that the students are meeting all the learning outcomes in your program.
Your program must explicitly state that advanced placement is NOT an option if this is the case
d) any required academic standards for enrollment
Proper delineation of your minimum academic standards must be prominently displayed and easily understandable. Some key metrics include overall admissions GPA, prerequisite science GPA, last 60 GPA, CASPA science GPA, and required admissions exams. Just like in Standard subsection (b), programs can experience changes in policies: for example, removing or adding additional admissions requirements like an admissions exam. This information must be readily available. These website changes don’t have to occur a year in advance of your admissions cycle; the interpretation of reasonable access implies that students have the ability to meet the requirements for this prerequisite course before the deadline of application submission.
e) any required technical standards for enrollment
PA programs determine the technical standards required for admittance and for graduation based on the program’s competencies. There can be pitfalls when prospective students have disabilities that can preclude them from admissions. There have been groundbreaking cases like blind medical students admitted to and graduating from medical school. The onus is on the program to ensure that there is adequate support for a student who requires additional assistance. There have been PA programs who have accepted deaf students and successfully accommodated them. Without sufficient accommodation resources, however, you are not required to accommodate a student who cannot meet your technical standards.
Further Tips for Compliance
The ARC-PA Accreditation Manual for Standards, 5th Edition defines “readily available” information as that which is “made accessible to others in a timely fashioned via defined program or institution procedures. Navigation to digital content should take little effort or time.”
Whenever possible, use the precise wording used by the ARC-PA. Providing language that allows for flexibility is sometimes necessary. For example, if you are occasionally willing to accept a student who does not meet your minimum requirements, this information must be accessible on your website: “Students who do not meet the minimum requirements may be considered for admissions on a case-by-case basis.”
The term “consistently apply” regarding the above policies requires = your program to follow its policies exactly as written. If your senior administration is asking you to make exceptions to a rule, you are violating a standard.
Compliance with ARC-PA Standards is not a punishment; it’s an opportunity to make your PA program stand out among the competition and prevent time-consuming citations. Make the effort to understand the requirements of ARC-PA Standard A3.13 and to ensure that your program’s website includes that information. Clarifying these requirements in a way that ensures applicant comprehension will streamline your entire admissions process by welcoming more of your ideal candidates to apply and reducing applications from unqualified candidates.
The processes we have outlined here will help your admissions process remain safely in compliance with ARC-PA Standards. Once you’ve reached compliance, you can save yourself the stress of the uncertainty that you are making mistakes. Take the time to consider whether your program fully in compliance with ARC-PA Standards. If not, form an action plan that takes compliance off your worry list.
In our next issue, we’ll begin a three-part series concerning academic remediation. We’ll discuss helping students meet the challenges of PA education, and we’ll present proven methods for assisting struggling students with the Study Skill Seminar and the Academic Success Coach.
To your admissions and program success,
Jim Pearson, CEO
Dr. Scott Massey Ph.D., PA-C
Scott Massey LLC
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