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Ask the CAA Featured Question

How does CAA support innovation in programs, including those wishing to expand student enrollment?

The perception that CAA's Standards for Accreditation [PDF] and related procedures limit academic programs' ability to develop innovative and flexible education models is insinuated in conversations, presentations, and sometimes in print.

Feedback provided to the CAA in the past year or so includes commentary how CAA restricts programs and also makes suggestions about what CAA should do, even though the comments are inaccurate. The CAA believes that accreditation must allow for innovation and must reflect the ideas and hopes of professionals in the discipline. We hope to set the record straight for a few of the statements in this column and provide information about available resources to support programs as they plan for the future.

Is there a mandated student to faculty ratio for the graduate programs?

Although there had been a 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio at one time, the CAA removed from its standards that requirement for accredited graduate programs in 1996.

The CAA does continue to review programs, through Standard 2.2 [PDF], to ensure sufficiency of faculty "to meet the teaching, research, and service needs of the program and the expectations of the institution." The CAA does not suggest a specific quantitative balance in order to comply with this standard. It should be understood, however, that if a program wanted to increase the number of graduate students, add a new track or a distance education option, or was forced to decrease the number of full-time faculty, the CAA would expect the program to assess the impact that those decisions might have on its ability to offer a quality program and make adjustments accordingly.

Is there is a mandated ratio of students to clinical supervisors/preceptors?

The CAA does not have a required ratio of students to clinical educators or supervisors.

Through Standard 3.5A and Standard 3.5B [PDF], the CAA outlines its expectations that the amount of supervision should be commensurate with students' skills and abilities, as well as the needs of the patient or client. Supervised clinical experiences also need to meet ethical standards and comply with state and federal regulations. Depending on the practice setting, certain conditions must be in place because of federal guidelines or state regulations, and therefore may put restrictions on the clinical supervisor's availability or patient/client scheduling. It is CAA's expectations that the program would work out those issues with the clinical supervisors and/or facilities and make accommodations as needed and appropriate.

Would CAA approve a program offered through a consortium or other partnership?

Among all of the graduate programs accredited by or in candidacy with the CAA, there are a variety of educational models employed successfully for CAA to award an accreditation status. CAA established specific policies or review mechanisms to ensure consistency across the assessment of the program as programs evolved and CAA needed to ensure comprehensive evaluations were conducted. These processes continue to evolve as new technologies and educational formats emerge.

  • Consortia—Currently the CAA accredits 5 consortia—all in audiology. The CAA defines a consortium as a program composed of multiple independently administered entities which is a formal arrangement between or among institutions of higher education. The CAA established this new category in 2005, although it had been part of the 2001 Policy on Substantive Change prior to that time. For more information about eligibility for a program offered through a consortium, see Chapter X, "Eligibility and Program Development," in the Accreditation Handbook.
  • Contractual Arrangement—Part of CAA's Policy on Substantive Changes, this component is defined as when an institution of higher learning and another type of entity, such as a speech/language/hearing center or other business, combine resources to offer a degree program. Although not a widely used model currently, it does allow for programs to consider other educational or business models and the availability of additional human, financial, or other resources to ensure all graduates are prepared for independent professional practice. For more information about a program being offered through a contractual arrangement, see Chapter XI, "Expectations of Programs," in the Accreditation Handbook.

Are there resources or examples of successful models, especially those that were able to increase the number of graduate students?

Academic programs, in collaboration with other stakeholders, have been attempting to increase capacity for a number of years. Examples of some the approaches that have been undertaken to achieve greater capacity are available on ASHA's webpages dedicated to Academic Program Capacity Building in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.

The CAA continues to work on initiatives and to partner with stakeholders to identify and eliminate roadblocks and foster greater innovation in educational programming. As part of the CAA's strategic planning, it will be addressing over the next 3 years ways to better streamline some of the reporting burden to programs.

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