UI public health bachelor’s moves forward


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Undergraduates will now have an opportunity similar to their graduate counterparts.

The state Board of Regents approved a bachelor’s degree in public health last month, which the University of Iowa College of Public Health will administer.

By fall 2016, UI students will be able to choose between a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science in the field. The program will have five study areas: biostatistics, social and behavioral sciences, epidemiology, health policy and management, and environmental health sciences.

Enrollment in the major is expected to be 25 in the first year and 500 by the seventh year.

“In the public health world right now, there are jobs coming online from different sectors,” said Mary Aquilino, the associate dean for the College of Public Health. “There are more positions at entry levels than there ever have been.”

The need for public health professionals is growing in both public and private sectors, she said.

Aquilino said students with the degree could work in many branches of the government either by collecting data, developing new programs, or implementing systems with health policy.

The undergraduate degree program is expected to cost $285,000 in its first year and $1.4 million by the seventh year.

“It’s going to take money to start the program,” said Aquilino, citing the need to hire additional staff and faculty support to “get the program off the ground.”

“By the fifth cohort, we will be generating income for the university,” she said, referring to the fifth group of students.

The program will be also different from the combined undergraduate to graduate program currently in place at the College of Public Health, which is enabled through arrangements at the UI as well as Grinnell College and Coe College.

Students enrolled in this particular program earn both degrees in 5 years.

While the UI will be the first Iowa institution to offer such an undergraduate program, universities around the country have similar degrees.

“I think the public-health degree is the fastest growing undergraduate degree in the United States,” said LuAnn White, the director for Applied Environmental Public Health at the Tulane University, in New Orleans.

Tulane’s public-health degree program was suppose to start in 2005 but was delayed by Hurricane Katrina. The delay lasted until the spring of 2006, when an initial six students enrolled.

The program now has 500 students.

“That’s comparable to public health programs across the country,” said White about the rapid growth.

White stressed the emerging popularity of public-health degree programs nationwide because of their practicality.

“There used to be a few public-health programs, and now there are hundreds. It’s part of keeping tune with the field,” she said. “This is a major field in which people can actually get jobs, and this is another thing that makes it very popular.”

UI students also said the new program would be an asset to the university.

“I feel like that’s something they would want to add to attract more students,” said UI senior Gisela Morales. “We get a lot of students from Illinois because it’s close, but we also get students from Miami, California, and New York, so we must be doing something right.”

Another UI student, sophomore Thanh Johnson agreed that the new undergraduate program would let UI students pursue their ambitions.

“I think it’d be good to give people a chance to go with it,” she said.