Education is ever evolving, and in order to remain relevant, colleges and universities must change with the times in order to meet the needs of their students. At Florida International University’s (FIU) Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences, changes are being made to both the undergraduate and graduate programs in order to better set up students for success.

In its Bachelor of Health Services Administration (BHSA) program, for example, closer attention is being paid to the prerequisites required for students to enter the program.
“Our BHSA program continues to have a large student following, with approximately 800 to 1,000 students on the BHSA track,” explained Salvatore Barbera, DHA, MHA, FACHE, interim department chair, Health Services Administration Program, Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Florida International University. “We’ve recently implemented some changes in the admissions process, to make sure that students are adhering to the requirements that were always there, but up until now have been more relaxed.”
Students enrolling in the program must have a 2.5 GPA or higher, and have completed two courses in accounting, one in economics, one in statistics, and one in computer science.
“We’ve noticed that students who have not completed these prerequisites don’t do as well as the students that have,” said Barbera. “These are legitimate prerequisites that definitely impact student outcomes; they need to be up to speed in computer science, for example, because we use it in our program.”
While many students transfer to FIU from local community colleges like Broward College and Miami Dade College, students entering the BHSA track may also come into FIU as freshmen. All of these students must have completed the required prerequisites in their first two years before beginning the 60 hours of specific courses in health services administration to earn their four-year degrees.
According to Barbera, the shift of students to online learning versus traditional classroom instruction has affected both the undergraduate and graduate programs.
“We’ve observed more of our students opting to complete the BHSA program online, which seems to coincide with the program’s move to FIU’s Biscayne Bay campus,” he said. “We’re seeing less face-to-face traditional students than we anticipated.
“To that end, before we reinstituted the Master’s in Health Services Administration (MHSA) program, we surveyed undergraduates to see what platform would be most attractive to them when getting their master’s degrees. There was a 50-50 split between those who preferred a traditional teaching platform and those who preferred online education.”
To meet student needs, FIU created a hybrid program in which students spend every other week of a 16-week semester alternating between face-to-face meetings in class and online activities and projects. “This appeals to students who like both forms of instruction,” said Barbera, adding that students also have the option to enroll in a completely online cohort if they so choose.
Barbera notes that FIU’s master’s program is different than some other graduate school offerings at different schools that have been developed as executive programs. “Those programs tend to attract older students who are already working in healthcare and are looking to earn a master’s degree to be promoted,” he said. “While we do have these kinds of students, this is not our target market.”
FIU’s cohorts tend to be a diverse mix of students; some of whom have experience in the workforce, and some of whom have just earned undergraduate degrees.
“People ask me whether they should go straight to graduate school, or work for a few years first, and while everyone is facing different circumstances, I tell them that if there are no barriers, the sooner you get your master’s degree, the better off you are,” said Barbera. “You never know what you will be dealt in life, so it’s good to complete your education as soon as you can.”