Students in the Physician Assistant Program at Penn State College of Medicine take part in the White Coat Ceremony in 2016, during which the students receive their white coats signifying the start of their training. Three female students are seen in the foreground, reading from the event program, with a male and female student visible in the background.

Physician Assistant (PA) Program

ARC-PA Accreditation Status

The logo for the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, or ARC-PA, is the letters ARC in white on a dark blue background and the letters PA in dark blue on a white background, with a hyphen between them splitting the two sets of colors.

At its September 2019 meeting, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) placed the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Penn State University on Accreditation - Probation status until its next review in September 2021.

Probation accreditation is a temporary accreditation status initially of not less than two years. However, that period may be extended by the ARC-PA for up to an additional two years if the ARC-PA finds that the program is making substantial progress toward meeting all applicable Standards but requires additional time to come into full compliance. Probation accreditation status is granted, at the sole discretion of the ARC-PA, when a program holding an accreditation status of Accreditation - Provisional or Accreditation - Continued does not, in the judgment of the ARC-PA, meet the Standards or when the capability of the program to provide an acceptable educational experience for its students is threatened.

Once placed on probation, a program that fails to comply with accreditation requirements in a timely manner, as specified by the ARC-PA, may be scheduled for a focused site visit and is subject to having its accreditation withdrawn.

The program’s accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website.

What does this mean? Is the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program accredited? 

The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant program has been, and remains, fully accredited by ARC-PA. That has not changed.

What led to the probationary status? The ARC-PA made it clear that placing our program on this status has nothing to do with the strength of our curriculum, our education or training, the quality of our program, or the education the students receive. It is because we didn't meet standards for program evaluation as defined by ARC-PA.

Penn State College of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Program remains among the nation’s strongest in terms of outcomes. Our strengths include:

  • 100% first-time pass rates in all graduating classes since our inception in 2014 — the national average from the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) is 93%. 
  • 100% job placement within four months of graduating from our program.
  • The retention rate of PA students starting and graduating from our program is 98%, which speaks to the support we give students who are here in training with us.
  • We are above the national average for all 22 content and task areas on PANCE; 99% since the program's inception.

While we are disappointed with the probationary status, students will be reassured to know:

  • The content and quality of the curricular instruction is not in question.
  • This does not affect currently enrolled, admitted, and prospective students on their journey toward program completion.
  • Students can continue to apply, matriculate, graduate, take board examinations, obtain state licensing and practice medicine.

The program and University administration have initiated an intensive plan of action to immediately address the accreditors’ concerns, including investing in resources to improve the collection and assessment of data that ultimately will improve the learning experiences of our students.

We are confident that the corrective measures being implemented will meet and exceed the accreditation standards of the ARC-PA ultimately lifting the probationary status. Additional questions may be emailed to psupaprogram@pennstatehealth.psu.edu.

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