Optometry School Exposé: TUSCULUM & HIGH POINT

Optometry School News

As we continue to see more colleges of optometry open across the nation, there may soon be one more to add to the mix. In June 2018 Tusculum University of Tusculum, Tennessee was denied permission from a regional accreditor to add additional graduate degree programs, which would have included an optometry program. Tusculum University Niswonger College of Optometry is currently a Stage-One Applicant for a professional optometric degree program, and according to Tusculum University, they are “projecting fall 2020, pending the receipt of preliminary approval for accreditation.” Construction crews are currently working on the building that is intended to house the Niswonger College of Optometry at Tusculum University.

High Point University
Located 20 miles from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, High Point University could be another potential home to a future optometry school. High Point University recently added two doctoral programs of pharmacy and physical therapy to its campus and is hoping optometry will join the ranks soon after 2020.

Why New Schools?
The stated hope of many of the new colleges and universities is to establish clinicians who are able to take on the growing public health epidemic of diabetes and hypertension within remote communities. For some towns, the local optometrist is the only physician many patients are willing or able to see on a regular basis.

Although a noble effort, creating a new optometry school is not easy. While the University of Pikeville College of Optometry is in its third year, other programs like Appalachian College of Optometry, Wingate University, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and University of Central Arkansas have not advanced past the planning stages.

Click here for more information about the ACOE Accreditation process and actions.

Concerns about under-performing and developing programs
According to the AOA, “rigorous educational standards ensure the profession’s future meets the demands of modern medical optometry, which is why AOA cautions that recent licensing exam data should increase scrutiny of under-performing and developing programs.”

The AOA emphasizes several Professional Optometric Degree (POD) standards that all new and
existing optometry schools and programs must meet to maintain the standard of excellence
expected of the profession, including:

  • the ability of programs to ensure at least 80 percent of graduates pass all three parts of the
    NBEO exam, or otherwise obtain a license within a reasonable time following initial matriculation
  • the continued high quality of the student applicant pool, and its ability to master the clinical
    competencies expected of optometry
  •  the ability to recruit qualified faculty

So, what does the future hold for the field of optometry? As we become more advanced in our training and scope of practice, we can only be sure that rigorous guidelines must be in effect to keep the public and the profession safe.

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