WMU gets final OK to offer classes in Punta Gorda and Tampa

contact: Cheryl Roland and Tyler Lecceadone
| WMU News
Photo of a map of Florida.

The University plans to offer numerous programs in Florida.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The Higher Learning Commission has approved Western Michigan University's request to offer programs at two locations in Florida.

The HLC's decision follows last year's approval by Florida’s Commission for Independent Education to grant provisional licenses allowing WMU to operate regional locations on the campuses of Florida SouthWestern State College in Punta Gorda, and the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School in Riverview, near Tampa. The HLC is the accrediting organization for degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in a 19-state region.

With the HLC's approval, WMU will be able to move forward with its plans to launch aviation flight science and aviation management and operations programs, each leading to a bachelor's degree, beginning with the 2017 fall semester. The aviation flight science program will be offered on the campus of FSW and at the Punta Gorda Airport through collaborative efforts with the Charlotte County Airport Authority. The aviation management and operations program will be offered online.

A multiyear process

In 2015, WMU's Board of Trustees authorized the administration to petition for approvals that would accomplish several objectives.

  • Provide the College of Aviation with an additional location that would allow increased flight time and enhance the college's ability to respond to aviation industry needs.
  • Allow the College of Health and Human Services to advance the delivery of its nationally recognized programs by providing more health care settings for clinical rotations.
  • Expand the off-site delivery of academic programs through WMU's Extended University Programs operation.

"The Higher Learning Commission's approval clears the way for us to deliver access to the University’s four-year programs that are most beneficial for the needs of individuals in Charlotte County and surrounding areas," says Dr. Dawn Gaymer, WMU's associate provost for Extended University Programs. "The approval will provide economic drivers for the region and create pathways for students to accelerate their career ambitions without leaving the state of Florida."

In addition to aviation programs, the Institutional Actions Council of the Higher Learning Commission approved WMU's request to offer the following programs in Florida:

  • Certificate in alcohol and drug abuse
  • Bachelor of Science in child and family development
  • Master of Science in engineering management
  • Certificate in gerontology
  • Certificate in integrative holistic health wellness
  • Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary health services
  • Certificate in low vision rehabilitation for occupational therapy
  • Master of Music in music therapy
  • Master of Science in nursing
  • Master of Arts in organizational learning and performance
  • Master of Science Medicine in physician assistant
  • Master of Arts in spirituality, culture and health
  • Bachelor of Arts in university studies
  • Bachelor of Science in university studies
  • Master of Arts in vision rehabilitation therapy

In October 2016, FSW and WMU announced an alliance that allows WMU to offer several high-profile academic programs, with the HLC's approval at Florida SouthWestern's Charlotte County campus. The alliance has been designed to integrate program offerings based on the community's need and their impact on the county’s economic development.

At the time the alliance was announced, chair of the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners Bill Truex spoke about the importance of the agreement for each school and the Charlotte County community.

"FSW has always been a pillar in this community, and with the addition of WMU, our community will reach greater heights," Truex said during the October announcement. "These two strategic, successful universities will help to illuminate our workforce availability, attract businesses and expand our economic development even more."

The HLC approval allowing WMU to operate regional locations in Punta Gorda and Tampa comes in addition to the nearly 350 online classes currently available to residents of Florida.

"Through our online courses, the University has been offering opportunities for nontraditional students looking for career advancement, or professional development opportunities since 1998," says Gaymer. "The addition of our regional locations in Punta Gorda and Tampa will allow individuals better access to both online and in-person courses."

For more information about the Higher Learning Commission, visit hlcommission.org.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.