ISSUE: As we seek to increase the value of higher education, how can we maximize the contributions of academic pharmacy to that value proposition?
RECOMMENDATION: As Congress and the Administration work toward reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) each should consider the strategies developed and employed by academic pharmacy to improve pharmacy education as a resource to quality improvement of higher education as a whole.
CURRENT LAW: 20 USC Subchapter IV
BACKGROUND: Supporting the continuous quality improvement of pharmacy education is a primary focus of the Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) . Education quality is important to determining the value of higher education. Education quality can mean different things to different people. A workgroup within AACP offers the following working definition that includes elements of quality from the Spellings Commission :
A high-value educational system meets the needs of the public and includes rigorous evaluation and assessment its processes. Educational quality is determined by (1) meeting the needs and expectations of the public -- including access, cost/affordability, learning, transparency, accountability and innovation; (2) creating intermediate and terminal outcomes associated with these needs and expectations, and (3) measuring the value of the educational experience to students, faculty, institutions and the public.
Colleges and schools of pharmacy meet this definition both collectively and individually. The expectation of quality, transparency and accountability are addressed on a collective basis through accreditation, educational outcomes, and institutional research [3,4,5].
Individual colleges and schools of pharmacy demonstrate their capacity to meet the public need for and expectation of innovation, learning, and access in a number of ways. These include innovative active learning techniques to improve their graduates’ critical thinking skills . Most student pharmacists participate in community-based and service learning experiences that improve the health and well-being of community residents and improve the competence of students to deliver care.
Distance education, one approach to meeting demand for pharmacists, also improves student access to pharmacy education, provides flexibility especially for those students bound by geographic or other limitations and does so in a manner equivalent to campus-based education [7-10].
The returns on investment in pharmacy education are shown in data indicating greater than 90% of students graduate on time and pass their licensure exam on the first attempt. Nearly 100% find work immediately upon graduation. Graduates of colleges or schools of pharmacy are able to earn an average salary over $105,000. The value of pharmacy education is apparent in that greater than 80% of graduating students would choose to study pharmacy if they were starting college over again [11,12].
Academic pharmacy’s commitment to education quality provides federal and state policy makers with a significant resource for advancing the quality of higher education in general. Policy makers can utilize the knowledge and approaches of academic pharmacy to formulate strategies to address concerns about the quality and value of higher education. The knowledge and approaches are well-grounded in higher education theory and supported by qualitative and quantitative data. While the success of our students on licensure examinations and job placement are certainly measures of that quality, the intermediate outcomes of student assessment and curricular, program, and institutional evaluation provide the greatest resource to policy makers and are the most readily translated into improvement strategies across higher education.
For additional information contact:
William Lang, MPHVice President, Policy and AdvocacyAmerican Association of Colleges of Pharmacywlang@aacp.org703-739-2330 x1038
 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Mission and Vision Statements. Accessed May 1, 2013. A National Dialogue: The Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, 2006.  Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Accreditation standards and guidelines for the professional program in pharmacy leading to the doctor of pharmacy degree (Guidelines Version 2.0, Adopted: January 23, 2011, Effective: February 14, 2011). https://www.acpe-accredit.org/pdf/FinalS2007Guidelines2.0.pdf. Accessed May 1, 2013. CAPE Educational Outcomes, Center for the Advancement of Pharmceutical Education.  Institutional Research, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.  Stewart DW, Brown SD, Clavier CW, Wyatt J. Active-learning processes used in US Pharmacy Education. Am J Pharm Educ 2011:75 (4):article 68. Alsharif NZ, Roche VF, Ogunbadeniyi AM, Chapman R, Bramble JD. Evaluation of performance and learning parity between campus-based and web-based medicinal chemistry courses. Am J Pharm Educ. 2005; 69 (2) Article 33. Lenz TL, Monaghan MS, Wilson AF, Tilleman JA, Jones RM, Hayes MM. Using performance-based assessments to evaluate parity between a campus and distance education pathway. Am J Pharm Educ. 2006; 70 (4) Article 90. Ried LD, McKenzie M. A Preliminary report on the academic performance of pharmacy students in a distance education program. Am J Pharm Educ. 2004; 68 (3) Article 65. Box BI, McDonough SL, McConatha BJ, Marlowe KF. Establishing and maintaining a satellite campus connected by synchronous videoconferencing. Am J Pharm Educ. 2011; 75 (5) Article 91. American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Pharmacy Graduating Student, Summary Report-2012.  American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Pharmacy Graduating Student, Summary Report-2012. Accessed May 1, 2013