Provides Unique Opportunities to Begin Health Care Careers Immediately After High School Graduation

Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney campus will launch a Healthcare Pathways dual enrollment pilot program starting in fall 2023, designed to provide affordable opportunities in the healthcare field while helping to address the need for more healthcare workers.

This new two-year program, offered at the IUP Punxsutawney campus, is designed to prepare high school students for increased career and educational options in the healthcare field, including employment as a trained and credentialed emergency medical technician while still in high school.

IUP has offered the traditional dual enrollment program—students enrolling in six credits (two IUP classes per semester)—to hundreds of qualified high school juniors and seniors over the past several decades, with the plan of students applying those credits earned in high school toward an associate degree or bachelor’s degree at IUP or other institutions of higher education.

The Healthcare Pathways program, while open to all students, is especially designed for students who want to explore careers in healthcare, have a career in healthcare but not a traditional bachelor’s degree, or who want to begin their healthcare career immediately after high school graduation as an EMT or transition into a licensed practical nurse program.

During the first year of this new program, students will enroll in a noncredit Introduction to Healthcare certificate program, while taking two three-credit IUP psychology courses: a general psychology class in the fall semester and a developmental psychology class in the spring semester.

The Introduction to Healthcare certificate program includes training and education in medical terminology, pharmacology, basic anatomy and physiology, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), public health, medical mathematics, and career exploration.

In the second year, students will take two three-credit IUP programs: a class in nutrition in the fall semester and a class in sociology in the spring semester, and in addition, will complete a year-long emergency medical technician program. Students must be age 16 to take the EMT national certification exam and would be employable as an EMT after age 18.

The 12 academic credits earned through this program can also be used toward a traditional bachelor’s degree program; in addition, some programs count completion of the EMT program toward academic credits required for a bachelor’s degree. The Introduction to Healthcare Certificate can also be an advantage to students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in healthcare fields.

In addition, the four IUP classes offered as part of this program and the Introduction to Healthcare certificate articulate into the Licensed Practical Nursing Program at Indiana County Technical Center, saving students about $4,500 towards that certification.

Both programs require that high school students who are enrolled in the program take the coursework at the IUP Punxsutawney campus from 8:00 to 9:15 a.m. Monday through Thursday; they then go to their high school for their high school classes and activities. (Classes in the second year may be held Monday through Friday.)

This program is open to any high school student who qualifies for dual enrollment, which includes earning a 3.0 grade point average in high school, being on track for high school graduation, and approval by the high school guidance counselor.

IUP discounts courses offered through dual enrollment by 75 percent. For students at Punxsutawney High School, the Punxsutawney Area College Trust (PACT), a long-time supporter of IUP and its students, will continue for the second year to fully fund the cost for students at Punxsutawney Area High School, which permits students to enroll in IUP dual enrollment classes at IUP Punxsutawney for free. A total of 18 students from Punxsutawney High School were enrolled in IUP dual enrollment classes for both the fall and spring semesters, a significant increase in dual enrollment from past years.

“The development of this unique program is a win for all involved,” IUP Council of Trustees chairman and PACT member Sam Smith said. “It provides new opportunities for students and can help to address the critical need and demand for health care workers, especially in rural Pennsylvania.”

“PACT continues to be very pleased to provide funding for students for dual enrollment, and very happy to see so many students take advantage of the opportunity to begin their college careers while in high school,” Smith said.

“This new program is designed to build on the success of our dual enrollment program in new and innovative ways,” Director of Regional Campuses Rich Muth said. “PACT’s support for dual enrollment has been a major factor in the growth of our dual enrollment program, and we continue to appreciate PACT’s very generous support as we expand dual enrollment opportunities into the Healthcare Pathways program.

“The great thing about this program is that students have options,” Muth said. “It can lead to full, or part-time employment as an EMT immediately after high school graduation; it is a great preparation and has significant financial advantages to students looking to enter an LPN program; and it provides academic credits, either free or at very reduced costs, for students who want to pursue a bachelor’s degree—either immediately after high school or later in their lives.

“It also provides an edge for students who are pursuing other types of health care employment, or medical school after completing their bachelor’s degrees,” he said.

“This program is modeled after a ‘life design’ concept, which encourages thinking about ‘what do we want to do next,’ rather than what we want to do for the rest of our lives, which will most likely change over time,” he said. “Pathway programs like the Healthcare Pathways program fit this model by opening up many possibilities and additional routes for designing a life of purpose and passion.”

In addition to the financial support for students from PACT, the Healthcare Pathways program will receive grant funding from Workforce Solutions for Northcentral Pennsylvania.

“The Punxsutawney Area School District is excited to collaborate with IUP once again on another dual enrollment initiative for our students,” Curt Vasas, assistant to the superintendent in the Punxsutawney Area School District, said. “The Healthcare Pathways program will meet a need for not only our students but for the community. A different demographic of students will be engaged in a post-secondary opportunity which can provide a spark towards a future career choice,” he said.

“The Healthcare Pathways program fits into our newly structured Comprehensive Plan,” Vasas said. “One of our goals was to increase collaboration and develop partnerships with our community and stakeholders. This program fits perfectly into this particular goal.”

“The Jefferson County Commissioners commend IUP and Mr. Muth for this innovative approach,” Jefferson County Commissioner Scott North said. “We encourage students to take advantage of this opportunity to develop career options as well as serve others.”

Additional options for financial discounts and transportation continue to be explored; more information is available by contacting Muth at