By: Jeremy Pittari, Magnolia Tribune 

(Photo from William Carey Facebook)Forbes ranks the Mississippi Ph.D. program among the Best Online Doctorate in Healthcare Administration programs available.

Forbes ranks the Mississippi Ph.D. program among the Best Online Doctorate in Healthcare Administration programs available. (Photo from William Carey Facebook)

William Carey University (WCU) recently ranked in the top ten for Best Online Doctorate in Healthcare Administration programs, according to Forbes.

Forbes ranked the Ph.D. in health administration and education program at William Carey ninth in the nation among other accredited institutions that offer online doctoral degree paths in healthcare administration.

The ranking takes into consideration 15 data points, such as the overall graduation rate, median earnings a decade after graduation, tuition affordability and aspects of the student experience.

“Note that because online doctorates are relatively uncommon, fewer schools meet our ranking standards at the doctoral level,” Forbes stated in the announcement.

WCU’s doctoral program has an overall graduation rate of 47 percent at a cost of $475 per credit as of 2023, Forbes noted. The average student will spend about $28,500 to earn the necessary 60 credits.

Dr. Janet Williams, Vice President of Health Science for William Carey, said the program also allows for the transfer of qualifying credits toward that degree. If the student already has a practice doctorate, roughly 30 credits will count towards the Ph.D., allowing the student to be able teach in their respective field sooner.

“Meaning if they have a doctorate in say physical therapy, we give them credit for the practice doctorate and move forward to their Ph.D. from there,” Williams said.

The program also offers a unique guided dissertation process, which began at WCU as part of the institution’s Nursing Ph.D. program. According to WCU, the process “gives students personalized feedback during their research journey, facilitating the development of research, methodology, and critical thinking skills needed to excel as educators, administrators, and researchers.”

Dr. Williams explained that at most universities, three to five faculty members are assigned as a dissertation committee member. However, due to their busy schedules, and the fact they are not paid for the extra work involved, it might take a student years to complete their dissertation.

“The problem is that for most of those professors this is just extra duties as assigned. They do it in their spare time. They don’t get paid for it. It’s just part of the job kind of thing,” Williams elaborated.

Research into the topic found that most people seeking a doctorate degree were unable to finish the required dissertation due to such hurdles.

“So, we decided we would pay the committees and we offer a dissertation class every term for a year,” Williams said.

Faculty who are part of the committee have 48 working hours to respond to the student.

“It allows them to complete that process more quickly, with guidance,” Williams said. “And that has proven to be an extremely successful way to do that.”

The degree path is offered in a hybrid format, with most coursework and classes conducted online. However, two days out of the year students are required to attend class on campus, and students are required to attend two synchronous sessions per year.

Dr. Williams added that the hybrid component allows the students to network with fellow students and faculty, leading to a better overall experience. Some students have been known to fly into the area so they could attend class in person.

“We ask the students every year at graduation, ‘Is this the way to go?’ And we have had a huge percentage of them say, ‘Don’t change it at all, it works like a charm,’” Williams added.

Completion of the course can be achieved within two to three years. Dr. Williams said students who want to have a life while working toward that degree typically take three years to reach the goal, while those willing to work hard can complete it in two.

The degree program has been offered at WCU for about 7 years, and on average 20 to 25 students graduate annually.

Being recognized by Forbes has been an honor for WCU’s faculty and staff because it is an indication of the accomplishments they make with the students, Dr. Williams said. She added that the program provides more than just a degree.

“It’s not just a piece of paper. They’re learning things that are valuable, things that the students can use to change their careers and capabilities because of the things they’re learning,” Williams stated.

Degree Program Director Dr. Shanda Bourne-Price said while the WCU’s doctoral program emphasizes both administration and education, graduates occupy many roles within the healthcare field.

“The program is designed to meet the diverse needs of healthcare professionals – providing them with the tools necessary to succeed as leaders in the healthcare industry,” Bourne-Price said in a statement.

Forbes’ college lists are intended to assist potential students in making informed financial decisions by assessing the unique aspects of higher education.