The University of Evansville is expanding its curriculum for an unlikely audience: high school students. For the first time, high school juniors and seniors are taking certain UE courses online this semester to earn UE credit hours. UE leaders say the program could mean a streamlined college career and the potential to enter the workforce sooner—adding momentum to the region’s expanding health sciences industry.

The new program to earn a UE Health Sciences Certificate is geared toward students who are interested in pursuing the health sciences in college—ideally, at UE, say university leaders.

“Because [UE] is a small, private school, sometimes high school students don’t realize the opportunities they could have here,” says UE Director of Adult Education Lindsay Roberts. “The program allows them to get a taste of [UE] and jumpstart their college career, especially if they’re looking at UE.”

The program provides up to 13 hours of credit at UE for students who would enter certain health sciences programs, such as nursing, clinical laboratory science and public health. The certificate also provides prerequisite coursework for the university’s physical therapy, physical therapy assistant and physician assistant programs.

Compared to taking the classes on campus, Roberts says the online courses are a fraction of the cost—$125 per credit hour—reducing the overall cost if the student chooses to attend UE. And university leaders are hopeful they will, especially as the region’s medical education landscape expands.

This fall, a medical education campus is slated to open in downtown Evansville, which is a project led by the Indiana University School of Medicine. The school is partnering with UE, the University of Southern Indiana and four local hospitals to open the multi-institutional academic health science and research center. UE plans to relocate its physical therapy program and physician assistant program, which launched just last year, to the new campus.

“We’re fortunate to have two very large hospital systems [in Evansville]; there are a lot of opportunities for [health sciences students], and we want to make sure they’re prepared. This certificate, coupled with the hands-on experience once they get on campus, will prepare them to enter the workforce,” says Roberts. “And we hope they stay in the Evansville area; it has a growing young population, and entrepreneurs are coming in to launch startups, so we hope they take advantage of that.”

Five high school students are currently enrolled in the program; seven have already signed up to take the online courses this summer, and registration is still underway. Most of the students live in the region, but some are from out of state. Roberts notes the online courses, which the school hopes will attract about 25 students each semester, are of equal rigor as their on-campus counterparts. Students can log on and take the courses at their convenience, with certain deadlines worked into the semester’s schedule.

Roberts says students who complete the online coursework will have a UE transcript; she believes it will also have value if the student chooses to immediately enter the workforce or attend a different university, although each institution would determine what credits are transferable.

“We want to give high school students from around the country the opportunity to see what UE has to offer, in hopes that once they’re here, they’ll want to stay,” says Roberts. “Things are ever-changing in education, and we have to make sure that we’re catering to that.”  

Roberts says the online courses could help lighten a student’s class load once they’re on campus at UE.

Roberts says the certificate program is designed to be flexible, so high school students can take the courses at their convenience.

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