Bellow is a guest post by Brian Goldstein, Ph.D., CCC-SLP (Dean & Professor, La Salle University). His words echo my own thoughts on the issue I frequently discuss on my blog – admittance into SLP graduate programs. He has much to say, and we should all be willing to listen, digest, and act. Read on my dear followers…
In my almost 10 years as a University administrator, I have had occasion to talk to members of the Board of Trustees at two different Universities. You might expect that main topics of conversation with Board members might have been graduation rates, faculty hiring, new programs, or budgets. You’d be wrong on all counts. The most common topic of discussion with Board members has involved admission into the master’s program in speech-language pathology. As the current Provost of La Salle University says, “it’s easier to get into some Ivy League schools than it is to get into the master’s program in speech-language pathology.” For the Fall 2014 class at La Salle, we had over 400 applications for 18 spots. In 2011-2012, there were 52,339 applications to the 224 ASHA-accredited programs that completed the survey, http://bit.ly/1vY9ril. I’m sure I don’t have to do that math for you. I would suggest you read this report for this and other sobering statics such as average GPA and average GRE score.
We are all aware of the fact that the number of applications to SLP programs far exceeds the number of available spots. The questions are why the situation exists and what might we do to obviate it. I, along with many others, am deeply concerned that if we do not start working to fix this issue, then well-qualified students will choose not to go into SLP because they believe they will never get into a master’s program. The time to address this issue is now and there is no time to waste.
The limited number of spots in master’s SLP programs has engendered numerous blog posts (e.g., here, here and here) and Twitter discussions—the latter being the impetus for this blog post. In my experience as Program Director, Department Chair, Associate Dean, and Dean, I thought I would try and bring my perspective to this discussion. Here, I want to focus on 2 main reasons for this bottleneck: (1) faculty and (2) clinical placements.
One solution to opening up more spots in graduate programs is to increase the size of the faculty in existing programs and/or hire faculty to open new programs. There’s a problem though. There are not enough faculty. Period. OK, so it’s more complicated than that but let’s start here. In 2011-2012, ASHA (2011, http://bit.ly/1vY9ril) reports that there were openings for 135 full-time faculty, with a projected total of 272 openings through 2017. Approximately, 28% of the openings went unfilled.
What do these data tell us? There are openings for faculty but not enough faculty to fill the available positions. If there are not enough faculty to fill open positions for the programs that exist now, how would it be possible to open any new programs? On a side note, it is expensive to run graduate speech-language pathology programs—from faculty to staff to labs to equipment, etc. The expenses are significant and growing. Back to the faculty issue. Is it possible to educate and hire faculty who do not have a research doctorate? Yes, no, maybe. Take a step back and think about how and where current faculty are educated. They are largely educated in research Universities whose mentors were educated in research Universities and so on. The expectation is that after graduation these individuals will be researchers who teach and not necessarily teachers who do research. Yes, I am generalizing. However, the mode educational paradigm is research faculty educating and mentoring doctoral students in research institutions who will become faculty members at research institutions and perpetuate the line. I freely admit, by the way, that I was of that mindset as well. My sojourn about 5 miles up Broad Street in Philadelphia from Temple University to La Salle University has changed my perspective. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way…