Miami Dade College suspends midwife program

Admission to Miami-Dade College’s trailblazing midwifery program was suspended Friday — a sign of the financial challenges afflicting MDC and other schools.

BY ERIKA BERAS
http://www.miamiherald.com

In another sign of the hard times in higher education, Miami Dade College said Friday it was suspending its innovative midwifery program — because not enough students had paid their $7,000 course tuition in advance.

”This is not an easy decision,” said Juan Mendieta, spokesman for the college. “But when we’re facing budget challenges this is the decision that has been made.”

The suspension of admissions — existing students can finish up their studies — leaves prospective students scrambling to come up with backup plans.

”I wanted to be a midwife since before I knew there was such a profession,” said Melissa Palacios, 21, of Miami, who had been studying education at the college. Palacios paid the fees up front and said she is unsure about her future.

Citing low enrollment and high costs, the college had advised its incoming class of 25 that they had to pay all of the semester’s tuition by the 4 p.m. Friday deadline. Otherwise, the college would suspend the program.

Only 17 paid by the deadline, with an 18th handing over the money at 4:10 p.m.

”Students were just praying that the class was going to make it. They got money from family members; they took out loans. But in the end they didn’t make it,” said Diane Gregory, professor of midwifery.

Admission to the program has been suspended before — in 2006, because of high malpractice insurance costs.

Tamara Taitt, a 2005 graduate and president of Florida Friends of Midwives, had friends who were to have been in that 2006 class.

”They found other life paths,” she said. “But then they let the next class come in. Now they’re doing it again. I don’t really have high expectations of the college at this point.”

High malpractice insurance may also be an issue for the 11 students currently enrolled in the program and slated for spring graduation. According to Mendieta, malpractice insurance is currently $3,000 per student per year. Gregory said that with fewer students to split the insurance cost, the individual fees will rise.

There are two routes to becoming a midwife.

Nursing schools, public and private, offer graduate programs for nurse practitioner midwives. Graduates are fully trained nurses who usually work in a hospital or birth center under the auspices of a doctor.

MDC trains ”direct entry” midwives, who are more likely to work outside a hospital.

Miami Dade College was the first public institution in the country to provide training in direct-entry midwifery.

”With midwifery I can own my own practice,” said Brandy Williams, 28. “This is what I dreamed of. Now I have to figure out what I’m going to do.”

Williams, a high school biology teacher and mother of two who planned on moving to Florida from the Washington, D.C. area, was one of the students who did not pay the tuition.

”I knew I would not have been able to pay for it,” she said. “I have nothing.”

The 90-credit program costs a total of about $7,000 — including the malpractice insurance, which fluctuates from year to year. Since its inception, 85 graduates have come out of the school.

Joni McCamm is a 1999 graduate who runs her own practice in Florida City: The Birthing Center of South Florida.

Last year, she delivered 27 babies.

”I could not practice the way I do today if it were not for that program,” she said. “This is really bad for the women of this community.”

Gregory, who has been a professor at the school since it opened, said, “On a professional level, I still have other work to do. But on a personal level, my heart’s broken.”
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