Full Class Well aware of the shortage of graduate slots, the professions’ leading organizations are working hard on solutions. Features
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Features  |   January 01, 2015
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Author Notes
  • Carol C. Dudding, PhD, CCC-SLP, is CAPCSD vice president for standards, credentials and clinical education, and director of the speech-language pathology master’s program at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 11, Administration and Supervision, and 18, Telepractice. duddincc@jmu.edu
    Carol C. Dudding, PhD, CCC-SLP, is CAPCSD vice president for standards, credentials and clinical education, and director of the speech-language pathology master’s program at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 11, Administration and Supervision, and 18, Telepractice. duddincc@jmu.edu×
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Professional Issues & Training / Features
Features   |   January 01, 2015
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The ASHA Leader, January 2015, Vol. 20, 36-39. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR1.20012015.36
The ASHA Leader, January 2015, Vol. 20, 36-39. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR1.20012015.36
It’s that time of year again. Thousands of undergraduates are frantically preparing for the Graduate Record Examination, cajoling professors and employers to write letters of recommendation, and hoping that their grade point average is high enough to get them into a graduate program in speech-language pathology or audiology.
This scenario doesn’t seem much different from what other college seniors face as they decide to move on to graduate school … that is, until you look at the numbers.
In the 2012–2013 academic year, 236 programs offering a master’s in speech-language pathology received 60,456 applications, according to data from ASHA and the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders. (Note that these numbers reflect the number of applications, not individuals, many of whom apply to several programs.)With an average class size of 32 students per admission cycle, that translates into a 22 percent acceptance rate.
The situation is similar for audiology programs. The 70 audiology clinical doctoral entry-level programs participating in the ASHA CSD Education Data Survey received 5,177 applications for an average class size of 11, with an acceptance rate of 32 percent.
Any growth in graduate program capacity is being outpaced by the growth of undergraduate programs in CSD. I do not seek, here, to examine why this situation exists or how it affects the workforce. My goal is to offer insight on challenges facing graduate programs and, more important, to encourage us all to work cooperatively on innovative solutions. ASHA and CAPCSD have already launched such efforts.
On our radar
ASHA and CAPCSD have long recognized and sought to address the rising trend in the number of applicants for the limited positions in graduate programs. On the face of it, the solution would seem simple: Graduate programs in speech-language pathology and audiology should admit more students. In fact, current programs report through the CSD Education Survey that they are functioning at 95 to more than 100 percent capacity. Lack of faculty and clinical placements are two main factors that limit growth in numbers of speech-language pathology graduate school training slots, notes Brian Goldstein, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at LaSalle University, in a recent blog post.
Graduate programs in speech-language pathology and audiology require resources in the form of funding, faculty and clinical practicum experiences. None of these resources is readily available in the current higher education environment.
In fact, 48 states fund public college and universities below pre-recession levels, according to a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
This economic situation has led to spending cuts and tuition increases. All would agree that this is not a fertile environment in which to develop new programs. In fact, some programs are unable to fill faculty vacancies created by retirements and the expiration of fixed-term contracts. ASHA’s 2013 faculty-researcher workforce data suggest that nearly one-third of faculty openings in CSD between 2012 and 2017 will remain unfilled. ASHA and CAPCSD are addressing this anticipated shortage in PhD-level faculty in separate initiatives (read on for more specifics).
Yet another challenge to expanding graduate programs is in the area of clinical education and practicum requirements. As many readers are aware, graduate programs in CSD require extensive clinical training under the supervision of ASHA-certified and/or licensed speech-language pathologists and audiologists (depending on the program). Securing adequate clinical sites, identifying clinical supervisors and preceptors with skills and knowledge in clinical education, and ensuring that students receive exposure and training across an ever-expanding scope of practice are some of the considerations in expanding and creating new programs.
The work ahead
Although funding, faculty supply and clinical education resources are complex issues, it is encouraging to know that professional organizations such as ASHA (see below) and CAPCSD, and individual university programs are working to develop solutions to the challenges. CAPCSD is working to increase the supply of PhD faculty, support clinical training and foster innovation: For example, three grant awards support innovations in clinical education and outcomes, 10 scholarship awards support doctoral students, and a leadership academy focuses on quality student supervision. ASHA has initiatives aimed at these issues as well.
Technological advances also offer solutions. As online learning continues to explode across higher education, we likely will see an expansion of quality online programs in speech-language pathology and audiology. Advances in digital technologies will allow for alternate models of graduate student and clinical fellow supervision through use of e-supervision. There is increased interest in the use of simulations to augment graduate student training experiences. The use of simulations is well-established in nursing and medical training and has the potential to meet some of our clinical education needs, especially in working with clients with low-incidence disorders and in interprofessional education.
Although some innovations are technology-based, others will come from an openness to alternate models of clinical education. ASHA’s Council for Clinical Certification in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology is considering broadening language to allow non-ASHA-certified professionals to provide limited supervision to AuD students. Some clinical educators feel it is time to begin to move away from the 1:1 model of supervision. These innovations, and others to follow, require a collaborative, proactive and innovative response from professional organizations and other governing bodies. Together we need to encourage creative responses to the challenge of increasing capacity in our graduate programs.
ASHA Tackles Supply and Demand

ASHA has initiated multiple efforts to increase the PhD pipeline, build capacity for the professions and prepare clinical educators:

  • 2004–2018 strategic initiatives to increase the number of PhD students and faculty.

  • 2009–2011 strategic initiative to develop and disseminate information and resources to academic programs that may facilitate increases in enrollment capacity.

  • 2009–2011 strategic initiative to develop and maintain an accurate data source on the supply of graduate-level personnel who meet the requirements for entry-level clinical practice, and/or who have earned a research doctorate.

  • 2012–2014 strategic initiative to develop a tracking mechanism on clinical personnel supply and demand in speech-language pathology and audiology.

  • 2012–2013 Ad Hoc Committee on Supervision to identify the knowledge, skills and training considerations for those serving as supervisors.

  • 2014–2015 Ad Hoc Committee on Supervision Training to develop a detailed plan that lays out a well-coordinated, comprehensive and systematic approach for establishing resources and training opportunities in clinical supervision.

Sources
ASHA. (2013). Strategic plan to increase the student pipeline and workforce for PhD researchers and faculty researchers. Retrieved from www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/Report-2013-AAB-PhD-Report-Strategic-Plan.pdf.
ASHA. (2013). Strategic plan to increase the student pipeline and workforce for PhD researchers and faculty researchers. Retrieved from www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/Report-2013-AAB-PhD-Report-Strategic-Plan.pdf.×
ASHA. (2014). What are the greatest challenges facing clinical educators in audiology and speech-language pathology today? How are ASHA and others addressing the challenges? Retrieved from www.asha.org/academic/questions/Clinical-Education.
ASHA. (2014). What are the greatest challenges facing clinical educators in audiology and speech-language pathology today? How are ASHA and others addressing the challenges? Retrieved from www.asha.org/academic/questions/Clinical-Education.×
Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders and the American Speech-Language Hearing Association. (2014). CSD Education survey national aggregate data report: 2012–2013 academic year. Retrieved from www.asha.org and www.capcsd.org.
Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders and the American Speech-Language Hearing Association. (2014). CSD Education survey national aggregate data report: 2012–2013 academic year. Retrieved from www.asha.org and www.capcsd.org.×
Goldstein, B. (2014, June 30). Just open more SLP programs[Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://slpecho.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/just-open-more-slp-programs-ok.
Goldstein, B. (2014, June 30). Just open more SLP programs[Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://slpecho.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/just-open-more-slp-programs-ok.×
Mitchell, M., Palacios, V., & Leachman, M. (2014). States are still funding higher education below pre-recession levels. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved from www.cbpp.org/files/5-1-14sfp.pdf.
Mitchell, M., Palacios, V., & Leachman, M. (2014). States are still funding higher education below pre-recession levels. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved from www.cbpp.org/files/5-1-14sfp.pdf.×
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