Local colleges add healthy dose of grad programs
Northeast Ohio's colleges and universities are injecting a dose of graduate programs related to health care into their repertoire in hopes of capitalizing on the uncertainty brought on by the Affordable Care Act and the region's reliance on the health care industry as an economic anchor.
The programs, for the most part, are geared toward those currently entrenched in the turbulent field and looking to enhance their career prospects. Case Western Reserve University this fall will launch a new health management program, Kent State University is relocating its executive health care MBA program to the Cleveland area and University of Akron is in the early stages of working with hospitals to develop some sort of degree offering. They join Baldwin Wallace University's established health care MBA program, which is among the nation's oldest; it began in 1997.
The health care industry is undergoing a dramatic shift — one that could upend the current business model rooted in payment for the amount, not quality, of services rendered. The idea behind these graduate offerings is to train leaders who tactfully can lead that transition.
That said, the budgetary pressures facing health care providers, particularly hospitals, could be a concern for institutions launching such offerings. Higher education officials say many providers already have tempered their tuition reimbursements, which could limit interest in such programs. However, many education leaders suggest the rapidly evolving health care landscape is still working in their favor.
“There's a great deal of anxiety among a lot of the providers these days,” said Mark Votruba, a Case Western Reserve economics associate professor leading the development of the new master's degree. “The forward-looking ones are going to recognize they need to have people who are experts at managing their systems against this changing landscape.”
Case Western Reserve already has begun reaching out to local hospitals to market its two-year program. The university isn't necessarily starting from scratch in the health care realm, as its Weatherhead School of Management already has in-house expertise, including J.B. Silvers, a well-known health care finance expert.
Cozying up to Cleveland
Kent State this spring will relocate its two-year executive health care MBA program to the university's College of Podiatric Medicine in Independence, which Kent State acquired in 2012. The executive MBA launched in 2009, and student interest has fluctuated since, according to Laurie Walker, director of the university's executive MBA programs. She said the move should help the program recruit better from Cleveland's east and west sides.
Baldwin Wallace, the elder statesman in the health care management arena locally, has seen enrollment in its health care MBA program triple to about 60 students over the last 11 years since its director, Thomas Campanella, took over. The program offers classes on both sides of town — Beachwood and Berea — and requires its students hold jobs in the health care industry.
“During times of challenge, I personally believe — and I think people are showing this in the program — you need to invest in yourself,” Campanella said. “Consequently, because health care is evolving, you need to be in a position to take advantage of it. There's going to be winners and losers, both from an organizational standpoint and a career perspective.”
The University of Akron is in early discussions with regional hospitals about developing a specialized business program with a health care focus, according to Bill Hauser, director of graduate business programs. Hauser said it was too early to discuss specifics, though the university for 15 years has offered a health care concentration within its traditional MBA program.
“We received a lot from interest from area hospitals, and not just the three in Akron, about some possible programs,” Hauser said. “We're very serious.”