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Guide to Starting an Academic Program in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD)

Section 1—Deciding to Establish a New Program

Conducting the Feasibility Study

A comprehensive feasibility study is a necessary first step in effectively demonstrating the need for a graduate program in CSD. Data collected through these activities also can be used to support future proposals and projects as part of the program development. The team may wish to consider the guidelines or procedures for submitting graduate academic program proposals for your institution to ensure that necessary information is collected and considered, thus allowing the team to make an informed decision. There are important components that should be included in the feasibility study.

Demand for a CSD Program

Obtain supply and demand data to demonstrate the need for more CSD professionals from ASHA; the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which details the anticipated growth of professions; your state's Department of Education; and local employers that are experiencing shortages (e.g., school districts, health care facilities). Information about CSD academic programs and enrollments may be requested through survey data from ASHA and the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CAPCSD).

It is also important to document the supply and demand of qualified (certified/licensed) clinicians as well as the nature of clinical services related to your specific locale. Surveys of school divisions, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers can provide this information. Local, county, and state agencies, as well as ASHA, offer excellent resources. (For more information visit ASHA's Surveys and Reports page to view the Audiology, Healthcare and Schools surveys.) Letters of support provide another avenue for demonstrating the need; possible sources for support letters include other university CSD program chairs within the state and region, your state's Department of Education, area school districts, and other local/regional employers. Letters should focus on the need for qualified CSD professionals. Making personal contacts with the program chairs at other universities provides an opportunity to discuss and validate the reasons for starting a new program at this time.

Applicant Pool

A potential pool of applicants can be determined by reviewing data on undergraduate and graduate student enrollment and matriculation from various universities within the state and region, including their own bachelor's graduates, if applicable. Conducting an environmental scan with program chairs at these other universities will aid the team in determining the level of interest among undergraduate students.

Revenue and Resources

After documenting the demand for the program, your next step in the feasibility study should be to focus on the revenue and resources needed to develop and run the program. Income sources include tuition, clinic services (if a campus clinic is proposed as part of the program), and grants and philanthropic organizations. Other sources of potential income can be realized through securing external funding through grants available from foundations and community service organizations (e.g., Scottish Rite).

It is recommended that annual tuition income based on student enrollment be determined for a 5-year period. Different institutions or states may require various timelines, so it is critical to be familiar with the forecast requirements.

The projected resources needed to establish and maintain the program can be divided into two categories: academic resources and clinical resources. For the academic program, it is necessary to project revenue needs for

  • faculty, including recruitment, relocation costs, salary, research and travel support;
  • administrative support staff;
  • student recruitment;
  • fees for candidacy and accreditation;
  • instructional materials and equipment;
  • additional library resources;
  • space renovation, office equipment and supplies, computers, and so forth.

For the clinical side of the program, expenses should be projected for

  • facilities, including costs associated with renovation;
  • furnishings (e.g., offices, therapy rooms, faculty and student work areas)
  • clinical equipment for diagnosis and treatment as well as video supervision equipment
  • office equipment and supplies;
  • clinical materials, including diagnostic tests, treatment materials, and software;
  • miscellaneous needs, such as advertising and telecommunications;
  • personnel-clinical educators as well as clinic office manager and staff.


You should determine whether the CSD program will operate an onsite clinic in relation to the need for supervised student clinical experiences, the university mission, and the ability to fund the start-up costs of a clinic.

The need for revenue to establish the clinical program should be balanced with any potential income projections estimated for the university clinic. Some university programs elect to charge fees for services and engage in dispensing hearing aids or billing Medicare or Medicaid or private insurance. Sample projections from other university clinic programs in the state may be valuable, as well as understanding reimbursement rates for services according to third-party payers.

If program personnel determine an onsite clinic will be operated, the breadth of clinical services offered (e.g., dispensing hearing aids, alternative and augmentative communications [AAC] assessment) also must be considered. If the administrators of the proposed program plan to have a university speech-language and hearing clinic, they must identify the need for speech-language and/or hearing services in the community. Contact physicians, school districts, nursery schools, the state health department, Head Start, hospitals, and day care centers to assess the pool of potential clients.

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