As accreditation standards change from year to year in various academic programs, deans and department faculty members are forced to make decisions that are sometimes quite difficult.

At the College Senate meeting on Oct. 11, Provost William Seigh announced the athletic training program has been placed on administrative hold, and according to the Keene State College website, “Effective 10/05/17 this program is under administrative review. There will be no admission to the program for newly admitted students (i.e., 2018FA on) while on administrative hold.”

The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE), which has recently changed the degree requirements of the program.

Dean for Professional and Graduate Studies Anne Miller said, “[CAATE] are going to require that the athletic training program be a master’s level program, and in order to be able to support that, that requires a level of resources that, right now, we just don’t have…”

Considering the minimum degree requirement for athletic training is now a master’s, Miller said costs would be higher and additional faculty members would have to be hired if they were to continue the program at that level.

KSC Professor in Human Performance and Movement Sciences and Program Coordinator for Athletic Training Dr. Wanda Swiger said the college is delaying the decision because the exact CAATE requirements for the master’s program have not been fully established. A lot of schools, she said, are just switching without knowing what the new requirements entail. KSC’s plan is to not admit any incoming first-year students for the fall of 2018, teach out the current students in the major and then make a decision whether to add in a master’s program at that point.

One of the major concerns, Swiger said, is that adding the master’s program is expensive. Additionally, doing so would require athletic training students to take more coursework in chemistry and physics, which, Swiger said, might put a burden on the science department.

The new requirements, for example, will also require athletic training students to do IV hydration and administration, which the current faculty doesn’t know how to do, as it was never previously required. The nursing program teaches this skill to their students, but do their faculty have enough time to teach athletic training students how to do so as well? “There’s all of these ramifications that have to be looked at. It’s not just as simple as, ‘Oh, let’s keep this program or that program,’” Swiger explained.

However, the hold means the program can be looked at again later. If our resources change or something else points to the master’s program being a possibility, Miller said, then a different change can be made.

In terms of enrollment, Miller said it hasn’t been “robust.”

The program typically brings in about 30 first-year students, Swiger said, but as students make their way through the program, between 12 and 15 graduate with an athletic training degree. After graduation, before the accreditation requirements were changed, about half went on to get their master’s degree at another institution.

Typically what happens is when the student gets to KSC, there are decision points they make along the way, and many don’t realize how science-based the major is or that it actually is a medical profession. Many end up switching to exercise science human performance, and other students have difficulty passing all of the sciences with the minimum grade requirement.

When they don’t meet minimum grade requirements, Swiger said they end up having to switch their major.

Oppositely, if KSC chooses not to add the master’s degree option, Swiger said another option would be to “prop up” the exercise science program, which could prepare students for a pre-athletic training or pre-physical therapy degree. This would, then, allow students to go elsewhere to receive a master’s degree in either program.

“I think there’s going to be a dip [in enrollment], but I do think it will rebound. The question will be, how much?” Swiger said.

KSC senior athletic training major Amber Curran said a master’s program would be nice to have and the changing accreditation requirements make sense. “Eventually, if you want to continue in the athletic training field, if you want to get a job, they’re going to require you to have a master’s degree, so just having that five-year program instead of going back to school, which I would have to do for two years, just makes more sense.”

However, both Curran and Swiger agree that the fact that it’s going away, at least for now, is sad, for not just currently students and faculty members, but alumni as well.

“Certainly for the alumni, the quality of our program has meant a lot to a lot of people, so I think that part of it, it’s sad for me to see that part of the ties go in that direction, but I don’t exactly know that that’s the end of athletic training at Keene State. It’s just, we’re doing a pause, we’re doing a reset,” Swiger said. “Whatever program emerges moving forward, whether that’s us saying, ‘Yes it is the right time to do a master’s in athletic training here at Keene State,’ or it’s time to pause and say, ‘You know what, we’ve got a great exercise science allied health option here and it really prepares students for that graduate school opportunity,’ then that’s going to get me excited too.”

Jessica Ricard can be contacted at jricard@kscequinox.com