Education majors on campus may be looking at more limited options in terms of graduate programs at KSC; the master’s of education graduate program in school counseling, as well as the post-master’s certification program in school counseling have been placed on administrative hold for review.

The administrative hold was placed for a few different reasons.

Education Department Chair and Professor of Education Dr. Ellen Nuffer said they had one faculty member, Dr. Karen Haas, who taught in the school counseling program full-time, as well as coordinated it, meaning she made sure students were meeting all the requirements and made sure the program itself was meeting the accreditation requirements.

Nuffer said Haas resigned over the summer to take a position at a different university, and only two students inquired about admission into the school counseling program this past year; both students didn’t actually matriculate into the program, so no new students entered the program for the 2016-2017 school year.

At the same time, Nuffer said Plymouth State University (PSU) received a grant where they were able to offer every student in their school counseling program a significant scholarship.

In order to be eligible for this grant, the program must be approved by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP approval requires a school to have three full-time faculty members teaching in the program, which PSU has.

Keene State only had one when Haas was here, which now leaves the school with no current full-time faculty members teaching in the school counseling program.

KSC follows CACREP standards, but is not CACREP approved for that reason.

Samantha Moore / Art Director

Samantha Moore / Art Director

“So here we had a rival not too far away that offered a really significant scholarship to students [and] had this CACREP approval….we knew that we would never be able to have that CACREP approval, so [with] all of those factors coming together, we said now is a good time for us to just pump the brakes and [talk] about what do we want to see for this program for the future,” Nuffer said.

Assistant Dean for the School of Professional and Graduate Studies Stephen Bigaj agreed that enrollment has been a primary motivator in initiating the hold, but staffing has also been another factor.

“We had two failed searches for the school counselor position over the last five years, so we’ve had to back fill with clinical faculty, and last year we hired a faculty member to take on school counseling, but the faculty member resigned this summer,” he said.

“Then, coupled with that and the fact that we only had two students in the pipeline for courses this fall, we had to make a decision [as to] whether we were going to move forward with the administrative hold.”

According to Bigaj, the program is not closed completely, but on hold for review.

“There’s a graduate task force that’s meeting on campus and they’re going to be looking at graduate education as a whole, so what they come up with is going to have a lot of impact on where we move in the program.

The hold is to reevaluate the program and figure out where we want to go,” he said.

Bigaj continued, “In the larger context of all our education masters degrees right now, we’re looking at them in a variety of different ways to serve the education community, so we’re also trying to explore some collaborations and things too.”

The past and future of the school counseling program

In talking about the future, Nuffer said, “In the meantime, we’ll be trying to pull together a group of people to do some brainstorming about this.”

She continued, “We know we’ve got to do some brainstorming about where do we want to go with this and put all of that together and hopefully come up with a really good solution, but I feel very confident in saying that the students who are currently in the program are being taken care of. They are being squared away.”

In previous years, Nuffer said the program had between 12 and 15 students in it, but more recently the numbers have been consistent between five and eight.

After a lot of outreach to graduating seniors and other local schools, Nuffer said the numbers just haven’t been where they want them to be.

In comparison to the master’s program in special education and the other master’s program in curriculum instruction, Nuffer said these programs are “very healthy in terms of their numbers and healthy in terms of their faculty who are teaching in those programs.”

She also said the decision to put a hold on the school counseling program was a mutual decision.

“This was very much a mutual decision among the people who are involved in the program. The faculty and the deans and [I] all thought that was really best, not only for the department and institution, but for students, both our current and our future students.

We want to make sure we are able to deliver a good program, so this was really a mutual decision,” Nuffer said.

Provost Seigh said the hold on the graduate program was “unofficial” for quite some time. Seigh said, “When I stepped into this position, there was already, in my understanding, an unofficial hold on the education graduate courses. I just made it official.”

A graduate student in the school counseling program didn’t respond for comment.

Student enrollment

In terms of how the holds would affect enrollment, Provost Seigh said he doesn’t think it will. “I think students come to Keene State College because it’s a really incredible place to come…and it’s an institution that allows people to come and discover,” Seigh said.

He continued, “I think one of the reasons it’s wonderful is that we’re very careful and intentional in the way that we look at student need, look at student education and how we offer the best programs possible and I think this is an example of just taking the time to figure out what’s best for the next group of students coming through.”

Jessica Ricard can be contacted at jricard@kscequinox.com


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