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Education commission approves new nursing program, moratorium


One new Doctor of Nursing Practice program will be allowed in Alabama and there will be a three year moratorium on others under a recommendation approved by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education committee on Thursday after a lengthy and sometimes contentious debate.

The 11-member committee voted 6-5 to approve the recommendation, which some nursing and education officials said would be a major setback to their efforts to deal with a nationwide shortage of nurses.

The University of South Alabama currently has the state’s lone program for nursing doctorates and Troy University and the 3-campus University of Alabama System have submitted proposals to start programs.

Ellen Haulman, staff associate for the commission, said there are 27 nursing doctorate programs in the country that are currently admitting students. The USA program was approved last fall. There were 20 students in its first class and 45 have been admitted for the upcoming fall session.

Haulman said the three-year moratorium which lasts until Oct. 1, 2010 would allow the necessary time to evaluate students who complete the program at the University of South Alabama and the newly approved additional program.

Commission chairman J.R. Brooks said he supported the recommendation, which was made by the commission’s staff, because it allows for some growth while providing three years to find out whether there is enough demand to sustain five programs in the state.

“We’re asking for four more (programs) in Alabama in one fell swoop,” he said. “I think that the recommendation makes tremendous sense.”

Some commissioners moved to amend the recommendation to delete the moratorium, but that motion failed on a 6-5 vote.

“The decision today was a loss for Alabama and its citizens and the future health care of this state,” Dianne Barron, associate provost and dean of Troy University’s graduate school, said after the meeting. “By placing a moratorium, we have just stepped backward while everyone else is racing to the forefront.”

Barron said while there are only 27 programs that are up-and-running, about 140 others are being planned and Alabama will miss its chance to become a leader if more programs aren’t allowed until after 2010.

The committee meeting, which lasted nearly four hours, also included discussion of the commission’s distance education policy.

The 11 members of the committee also serve as the Alabama Commission on Higher Education and will meet for an official vote on the recommendation and distance learning policy on Friday.

-Associated Press

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