Athletic training program may shut its doors to students earlier than expected

Jessica Simms, Managing Editor

Quinnipiac University’s athletic training (AT) program may not accept new students after the fall 2021 semester due to COVID-19 financial pressures and the accreditation process the program must follow.

According to Janelle Chiasera, dean of the School of Health Sciences and professor of biomedical sciences, the program may have to close its doors to a new class after the fall 2021 semester due to the COVID-19 related budget planning. This is instead of its original plan to wait until fall 2022.

“Due to the very challenging financial pressures of COVID-19 across the entire university, we made the difficult decision to initiate the phase-out process of the program one year early,” Chiasera said. “We will follow university policy.”

However, in 2013, the AT Strategic Alliance, under the leadership of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) and the Commission of Accreditation Athletic Training Education (CAATE), re-examined the type of degree that best prepares future athletic trainers.

Michael Clement

“In 2015, the decision was to shift the professional degree to the master’s level, which was described as essential to ensuring the future ability to meet the healthcare team, to continuing to improve patient outcomes and to keep the AT profession sustainable for future generations to come,” Chiasera said.

According to Chiasera, when this decision was made, the announcement that was added to the CAATE 2012 Standards stated that: “Baccalaureate programs may not admit, enroll or matriculate students into the athletic training program after the start of the fall term 2022.”

Since this announcement was made, Chiasera said that the athletic training faculty, the dean of the school of health sciences and the office of admissions discussed the possibility of transitioning Quinnipiac’s athletic training program into a master’s program.

“The program formed two working groups to outline plans to go forward with a master’s program or to end the program and teach out the cohorts,” Chiasera said.

However, at the time, former Provost Mark Thompson and Dean of the School of Health Sciences William Kohlhepp decided it was not possible for Quinnipiac to offer a master’s athletic training program.

“It was an extra year of school, it’s a fifth year of school,” said Stephen Straub, program director of athletic training. “What we found from (other health sciences programs), is that when clinicians got that extra year of education, they typically didn’t get paid any more, so we were going to be asking students to come to Quinnipiac for a fifth year and their starting salary was basically going to be the same.”

Quinnipiac’s athletic training program is a bachelor’s degree-granting program that started in 2000 and was officially accredited in 2004, with approximately 350 graduates over its time at the university.

The next decision that had to be made in regards to the future of the program was when Quinnipiac’s program had to wrap up — fall 2021 or fall 2022?

“We’re still getting in good numbers,” Straub said. “We still have a lot of students who have interest in the program.”

According to Straub, this decision is still up for debate. Quinnipiac cannot accept new students after the fall of 2022 due to the CAATE statement, but the university must follow through with the process if it wants to end a program early.

“If the university wants to stop a program early, there’s a process that they have to go through where the faculty senate actually reviews the program in addition to the dean and the provost” Straub said. “The faculty senate makes a recommendation on what would happen. The dean has not yet brought that to the faculty senate … The dean’s recommendation is going to be to close it down, so our last class would be the fall of 2021, but that has to be approved by the faculty senate and it has to be approved by the provost. It’s just a little bit nebulous about when it is when we actually go ahead and close it down.”

Straub said the current athletic training students should know about the accreditation process since it affects them professionally. However, the athletic training students refused to comment on this matter.

“Our current seniors, I’m not going to guarantee, they do (know about the program),” Straub said. “They should understand that we can’t bring in students past 2022.”

The discussion about shutting the program’s doors early to new students has not been formally discussed with the students in the program.

“As a program director, I have been hesitant to tell students that because what message do I tell them?” Straub said. “That sandwich you’re eating might be a good sandwich, but there’s a chance maybe you shouldn’t eat that sandwich.”

Straub stressed the idea that this possible change in when the program will stop accepting students will not affect the current and future Quinnipiac athletic training students.

“As a program and as a university, we have a commitment to whoever we bring in to finish them out,” Straub said. “Even if the last class that we bring in will be the fall of 2021, we’re committed to making sure that those individuals are ready to graduate.”

Regardless, the discontinuation of this program after fall 2021 or 2022 will have an effect on the university through its relationship with Quinnipiac’s athletics department.

“There will no longer be the connection between the program and university athletics as students in the AT program will oftentimes work with our athletic teams and staff,” Chiasera said.

Straub also said that the change in the School of Health Sciences can also impact the university as a whole due to its effect on other majors, like physical therapy. Right now, Quinnipiac is one of the few universities that allows students to get two degrees — one in athletic training and the other in physical therapy.

“The program has also been an undergraduate major for many PT students,” Straub said. “They’ll go on and get certifications in both athletic training and in physical therapy. So that opportunity is going to go away unfortunately … It’s one of the things that makes Quinnipiac a little distinctive. It was a unique opportunity.”

Despite when the athletic training program will have to stop accepting new students, Straub said that while it is hard when changes like this happen within a school, he is proud of what his graduates have done.

“It’s hard when things change,” Straub said. “It’s hard when things go away like that. The program itself has really been a good portion of the school of health science. It’s provided a great undergraduate experience for students who wanted to go on and just be athletic trainers, and we’ve had folks that graduated from our undergraduate program and gone off and have done some really great things.”