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The risk is that most "provisional" programs are drowning in marginal applicants who hope that it can benefit them somehow. The other risk is that there's going to be immature team dynamics among the faculty, or so I hear. I love being part of a well-established program, but that's just my perspective.

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From my understanding, a provisional accreditation is like being on probation. If the program meets certain criteria, then they will receive their full accreditation. If they fail to meet those criteria and lose their provisional, their students will not be eligible to sit for the PANCE. (PANCE requirement is to graduate from an accredited program).

 

I don't know if provisional is given only to new programs who are trying to get their programs going, or if a school slips below standards they will be given a provisional for a certain time to correct themselves.

 

Accreditations are given for increments of years. The program gets re examined by the ARC every 1-7 years (I think the shortest time is a year, the longest is 7 years) If you have the choice, attending a program that receives their full 7 year blessing means that the school has shown the highest proficiency.

 

So what does it all mean? Attending a school that only has their provisional accreditation is to attend a school who has not yet proven themselves to be proficient in the preparation of PAs to practice. Everything from classroom lecturers to clinical site rotations may be suspect...or they may be an awesome program with their stuff dialed in, but they are too new to have earned that respect.

 

If you are one of the first students through a program, you guys will be test subjects. You'll also be the trend setters and ground breakers for that program. If you are flexible, relaxed, and motivated, it could be a fun ordeal. If you need structure and a clear path, it could drive you insane. If the school goes down in flames, you could lose all your tuition and not be able to sit for the boards. If the school soars with success, you get bragging rights of being one of the first PAs through that program.

 

Soo....like to gamble?

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Accreditation; provisional or otherwise does NOT mean all programs are created equal! It is not a good idea to assume that as long as a program has been provisionally accredited it must be "ok" or that it will meet your expectations. I agree with the above post, it is a huge gamble and one should not gamble on your medical education. Provisional accreditation is granted to new programs that have, ON PAPER met the outlined, specific, predetermined minimum criteria outline by The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistants (ARC-PA). Again, these programs have only met these criteria on paper and not in reality as of yet. What is on paper and what actually comes to fruition is yet to be determined when it comes to provisionally accredited programs.

That is not to say no one should enter provisional programs,after all every program even the best were all new at one time. Maybe they oneof the future top 10, A+, tier one super stellar programs everyone will belining up to apply to in 3 years. Buttttt………. maybe they are not.....

If you are going to choose a new program make sure the program shares the same values in medicine as you. Be sure you are going to prepared to be the PA you want to be. It is a good idea to get all the necessary information to prove to you (the new potential student) all the specifics such as; curriculum including specific class' and course descriptions as well as who will be teaching each class. Do some research about the professors and their teaching history. Find out if they are PA's NP's, MS, PhD,MD/DO or some other type of professional... Get specifics about clinicals-find out (and verify!) if contracts are signed and where. Find out if your preceptors are actual PA's, MD's and DO's,or are they RN's or nobody and your on your own.. Are there preclinical hours and if so, where and who are those preceptors and what are the expectations and goals? What are the extracurricular expectations? Find out what type ofstudents have applied, what type of students they hope to accept in terms of academichistory, average GPA’s, HCE (type and avg hours) as well as extracurricular experiences.

If you get (and verify) this information and you are still super excited and like the program then go for it; just be sure to have realistic expectations. Best of luck to you :)

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I attend a provisionally accredited until our first class takes the PANCE. One thing to consider is that if the program is accredited (provisional or full) on the day of matriculation then those students are eligible to take the PANCE, even if the program looses accreditation later. So that is a safety net for one considering a provisionally accredited program.

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I agree with Rev. Well-established programs, I would assume, typically have a faculty that has ironed out the kinks so to speak. Ultimately, it all depends on your comfort level. Personally, I would prefer a well-established program with PANCE pass rates that I could track over time.

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I'm the director of a program that is applying for provisional accreditation in April (University of Charleston in Charleston, WV -- http://www.ucwv.edu/pa) so I want to help clear some things up:

 

-There is no such thing as "full" accreditation in the PA education world. A provisionally accredited program is a "full" form of accreditation in that it has been given it's blessing by ARC-PA. Following provisional accreditation, most programs receive the status of "continuing" accreditation, which is also a "full" form of accreditation. Students who enter a provisionally accredited program are eligible to sit for PANCE, even if the program does not receive "continuing" accreditation.

-One should not assume because a program has been around for a long time that all of the kinks are ironed out. There is very high turnover in the world of PA Education. Therefore, even schools that have been around for dozens of years can be in significant transition, even turmoil.

-PANCE rates are definitely helpful to look at but are only a measure of medical knowledge, which is only one of six core competencies our profession has adopted. In other words, you cannot tell if a program trains excellent PAs by looking at this alone. I've known many PAs who have scored very well on PANCE but are marginal PAs and others who have been average who have been excellent PAs.

-New programs have the luxury of building something great from scratch whereas established programs are very challenged when making changes.

 

I think the most important thing is to carefully read about each program and ask lots of questions. You'll find your answer. I can promise that my program will be outstanding, from day one :)

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I'm the director of a program that is applying for provisional accreditation in April (University of Charleston in Charleston, WV -- www.ucwv.edu/pa) so I want to help clear some things up:

 

-There is no such thing as "full" accreditation in the PA education world. A provisionally accredited program is a "full" form of accreditation in that it has been given it's blessing by ARC-PA. Following provisional accreditation, most programs receive the status of "continuing" accreditation, which is also a "full" form of accreditation. Students who enter a provisionally accredited program are eligible to sit for PANCE, even if the program does not receive "continuing" accreditation.

-One should not assume because a program has been around for a long time that all of the kinks are ironed out. There is very high turnover in the world of PA Education. Therefore, even schools that have been around for dozens of years can be in significant transition, even turmoil.

-PANCE rates are definitely helpful to look at but are only a measure of medical knowledge, which is only one of six core competencies our profession has adopted. In other words, you cannot tell if a program trains excellent PAs by looking at this alone. I've known many PAs who have scored very well on PANCE but are marginal PAs and others who have been average who have been excellent PAs.

-New programs have the luxury of building something great from scratch whereas established programs are very challenged when making changes.

 

I think the most important thing is to carefully read about each program and ask lots of questions. You'll find your answer. I can promise that my program will be outstanding, from day one :)

 

Good post. I agree. Good luck to you and your new endeavors. I am sure you will do well.

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dpayne2- thank you for that response. I am pretty sure I am going to choose the brand new program that I've applied to over the more established one (assuming I get offers at both). I have spoken to several people (including a current PA educator in the area) about this program (Elon University in NC); and have heard nothing but good things about the school itself, the director, and the faculty that have already been hired. It is good to hear your perspective on this- it just reinforces what I was already thinking- that new programs can be great. As an aside- I love WV. We like to go rafting near Fayetteville and skiing near Davis. If we could move for my PA school I would totally consider your program! My husband hopes we get to move to WV one day when we are both done with school :=D:

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Even if the program tanks completely and loses their accreditation you still may have options. When Charles Drew lost their accreditation my school took in a lot of their students. They had to start all over again didactically, but at least they did not have to go all the way back to square one Pre-PA's

 

http://www.cdrewu.edu/cosh/programs/undergraduate/FormerPrograms/physician-assistant

 

I will also second what dpayne2 said about well established programs having kinks and growing pains just like any other school when it comes to changes. My program recently went from Certificate or Bachelors only,to offer a Master's Degree along with the Bachelors and the cert. It was kind of a rough transition but its all ironed out now.

 

I say go to the school you think is the best match for what you want! Ignore all the semantics of accreditation...

 

Just my two cents...

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These are such helpful replies. Does anyone happen to know if anything has changed since 2012 when these posts were written? I am considering going to an ARC-provisional school. Thanks

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My program is relatively new, started in 2010, and I believe it had temporary accredetation when I started this summer. However, we had interviews in August, and everything went really well. We should hear back in spring about final decision, but we are sure we will be granted full accredetation.

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Hi all! I'm interviewing with a provisionally accredited program and have heard that this status can affect the type of financial aid available. In particular, that you may not be able to receive federal aid, instead having to take out private loans with much higher interest rates. Additionally, I have heard that you are not able to put your current federal aid on hold while in school, so you will have to make payments on these while you are a student. Does anyone have insight on this?

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Those sound like great questions to ask the program during the interview.  

Fwiw a good friend of mine went to a PT Program that wasn’t fully accredited and this resulted in the students struggling to get financial aid as you mentioned. 

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