UTPA’s Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness put out its first “Academic Program Needs Assessment of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas” in April. UTPA President Dr. Robert S. Nelsen asked for the report to determine what academic needs are being met and which ones are not so the University can identify what programs need to be expanded, developed or considered in the future.
“This report will assist me and my executive team at The University of Texas-Pan American to make well-informed decisions for the course this institution needs to take in the near future,” Nelsen said.
The 100-plus page report provides demographic information about the educational attainment and employment of Rio Grande Valley residents, as well as what occupational demands there are in the area. It also shows which jobs the University is training enough people for and which ones are still in need of more employees.
UTPA has experienced a large increase in enrollment in the past decade, from 12,760 in Fall 2000 to 18,337 in Fall 2009 and has the greatest numeric increase in graduates from fiscal year 2000 to fiscal year 2009 – from 1,780 to 3,468 – among the Valley’s five main institutions of higher learning.
Professions in which the University is meeting demands include: computer and information sciences and support services; counseling related professions; education administration; engineering; social work; business management; marketing; finance; accounting; criminal justice and some health care professions, such as occupational therapy, physician assistants and medical and health service managers.
But there remains a high demand for registered nurses, physicians, surgeons, pharmacists, physical therapists, teachers, lawyers and human resource managers and the future employees the University is producing are not enough to fill that need.
For example, 1,640 new jobs become available in education each year, but the University only graduated 364 people in fiscal year 2009. The Valley needs about 440 more registered nurses each year, but last year UTPA only graduated 90.
Recommendations in the report include expanding programs for education, nursing and civil engineering; developing new programs in medicine, business administration, law, pharmacy, physical therapy and library science. It also calls for the consideration of providing programs related to green jobs and information technology in health care.
The University of Texas System granted UTPA’s request to offer a Bachelor of Science program for civil engineering. The institution is now awaiting approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Once the program is in place, the University plans to meet the demand for civil engineers and construction managers.
Other recommendations include developing a pipeline for science, technology and math (STEM) fields by forming partnerships with local high schools and other postsecondary institutions and developing a separate teachers college to produce high-quality and well-trained educators for the Valley and the state.
To read the entire report, visit http://oire.utpa.edu/publications/UTPA_ProgramNeedsAssessmentApril2010.pdf.