A master’s degree in public health will be yet another degree program to be offered by the Fort Smith-based Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE), with the first class set to begin in the fall semester of 2024.
ACHE recently received approval for the new program from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The commission is an is an independent corporation founded in 1895 as one of six regional accreditors in the United States. The program also received approval from the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Institutional Actions Council.
“We are excited to add this additional degree to our programs as it closely aligns with the ACHE mission of addressing the overall wellness and quality of life of our region,” ACHE President and CEO Kyle Parker said in a statement.
The new master’s degree program is designed to complement other ACHE graduate programs and give those working in public health the opportunity to expand their credentials. Most of the course content will be offered on-line to give working health professionals a flexible program to meet their individual needs.
Students will be offered concentrations in the area of nutrition and in the area of rural/community health. According to ACHE, the program will be based at the ACHE Research Institute Health and Wellness Center – located in the former Golden Living headquarters building in south Fort Smith – to support in-person seminars and on-line instruction.
The two-year program will begin with slots for 50 students and could expand in subsequent years, according to ACHE. Tuition for the program has not been set, but is estimated to be around $20,000 for the entire program.
Program director Elizabeth McClain, who holds a master’s degree in public health, said the focus is to support the ongoing community health and nutrition outreach and research at the Wellness Center.
ACHE was formed when Fort Smith-based Degen Foundation used part of $70 million from the sale of Sparks Health System in November 2009 to what was then Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates to build the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine (ARCOM) at Chaffee Crossing. The $32.4 million college and its 103,000 square feet is now home to 600 medical students.
ACHE has since built a 66,000-square-foot College of Health Science building on the campus that is home to physical therapy and occupational therapy degree programs. The ACHE School of Physician Assistant Studies is under development.