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


Because of challenges posed by personnel shortages, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) National Office has received a number of questions and requests for information about how to initiate graduate education programs in communication sciences and disorders (CSD). In response, the Academic Affairs Unit developed this Guide to help programs understand the overarching process for developing a graduate education program, including achieving program accreditation from the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). Staff from the accreditation unit and CAA members collaborated on this project. The guide was authored by volunteer faculty from diverse academic programs whose collective knowledge and experiences in establishing CSD programs is presented here.

In an era of competing goods and limited resources in higher education, coupled with the national critical personnel shortages in CSD, it is an exciting yet equally challenging time to consider beginning a new graduate program in the profession(s). The information presented in this Guide is aimed at identifying factors to consider when developing a new graduate program. The guide should in no way replace any institutional or state guidelines or recommendations or be considered an exhaustive list of resources. References to timelines are deliberately lacking, as the contributors realized that each institution is unique and the type and size of institutions vary. Where appropriate, authors have indicated differences among private versus public institutions.

Table of Contents

Section 1: Deciding to Establish a New Program

  • Introduction
  • Creating a Team
  • Getting Started With a Feasibility Study
  • Conducting the Feasibility Study
  • Deciding to Create a Program

Section 2: Developing a Proposal for a New Program

  • Introduction
  • Getting Started With the Proposal
  • Preparing the Letter of Intent
  • Receiving a Response to the Letter of Intent
  • Preparing and Submitting the Formal Proposal
  • Navigating the Approval Process

Section 3: Implementing the Academic Program

  • Introduction
  • Administering the Budget(s)
  • Developing Program Policies and Procedures
  • Recruiting Faculty and Students
  • Implementing the Curriculum
  • Securing Physical Facilities, Equipment and Materials, and Library Resources

Section 4: Seeking Accreditation: What You Need to Know

  • Introduction
  • Understanding the Core Values and Benefits
  • Standards for Accreditation
  • Verifying Eligibility Conditions for Candidacy
  • Navigating the Candidacy Process
  • Documenting Standards Compliance and Development Plans
  • Participating in a Candidacy Site Visit
  • Maintaining Accreditation Status
  • Accreditation Resources

Section 5: Resources


Contributing Authors

  • Dolores Battle, Buffalo State College (SUNY), Buffalo, New York
  • Helen Buhler, Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, New Yor
  • Gayle Daly, Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia
  • Regina Grantham, SUNY Cortland, Cortland, New York
  • Mona Griffer, Marywood University, Scranton, Pennsylvania
  • Elizabeth McCrea, ASHA VP for Academic Affairs in Speech-Language Pathology (2007–2009), Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
  • Lissa Power-deFur, Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia
  • Gloria Schlisselberg, Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, New York
  • Wayne Swisher, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota
  • Glenn Waguespack, dba Audiological Services, Shreveport, Louisiana

Contributing ASHA Staff

  • Tess Kirsch, Associate Director of Accreditation for Policy and Education
  • Loretta Nunez, Director of Academic Affairs
  • Silvia Quevedo, Associate Director of Academic Affairs

Section 1: Deciding to Establish a New Program


Making the decision to start a new graduate program can be as overwhelming as it is exciting! The college or university may be undertaking this venture for several reasons:

  1. to meet the goals outlined in its mission statement;
  2. to build upon an existing undergraduate communication sciences and disorders (CSD) program;
  3. to create a graduate program in the absence of an existing undergraduate program;
  4. to re-create a graduate program that has previously been discontinued.

At various universities, the process may be initiated internally (e.g., by CSD faculty or the administration) or externally (e.g., by the state education agency). The steps toward making a decision are similar for each situation, although there are unique nuances that should be considered specific to each university.

Creating a Team

Although the responsibility to investigate the viability for a new degree program often is assigned to one person, it is recommended that the university identify several core people who will serve as a team throughout the entire proposal and implementation process. The team would be responsible for establishing parameters for and conducting a feasibility study; designing the program and developing the curriculum; aligning the proposed program with expected state, regional, and national accreditation and approval standards; and developing a program proposal, if warranted. Securing a CSD consultant is highly recommended. This consultant will play an integral role in guiding the team through establishment of the feasibility study, development of the curriculum and program, and review of institutional, state, regional, and national accreditation and approval standards.

The core team members will work with a variety of professionals, internally and externally, throughout the process; these professionals will prove to be valuable resources. CSD professionals likely will serve as the core team, but the team should be expanded to capitalize on the expertise of various professionals in the university and in the CSD community. As a team, you should consider how various offices or specific people can contribute to the project, when, and how often. The following list provides a suggested list of key internal and external contacts and their roles.

Internal Contacts

  • Faculty with experience in developing new programs—to help you understand the "politics" of new program development and approval at your institution
  • Faculty responsible for education policy approval—to help you understand university policy and procedures regarding curriculum and program approval
  • Deans and associate deans of the college/school where the program likely is to be housed—to help you understand issues associated with adding programs in that college/school, including space, admissions, and how the proposed program supports the institution's mission and strategic planning
  • Administration officials responsible for securing regional accreditation and, if pursued, specialized or professional accreditation—to help you understand the information needed to secure accreditation of a new program and determine the impact on existing accreditation status
  • Individuals with survey design expertise—to help you collect the information you need
  • Finance and budget office personnel—to help you project tuition revenue
  • Facility personnel—to help you identify costs associated with running an onsite clinic
  • Individuals with business planning expertise—to help you plan clinical operations, especially revenue and expense
  • Assessment office personnel—to help you obtain information on university demographics and integrate CSD assessment needs into the university assessment system
  • Human resources personnel—to help you identify recruiting costs and procedures
  • Development office/foundation personnel—to help you identify donors that may support creation of the new program

These internal constituents will be valuable resources to the CSD professionals as the team navigates university protocols in development of the program. Raising awareness that a new graduate program is being considered and involving relevant offices will ease the transition to implementation once the program is approved. A well-formed team will consider unique issues related to re-establishing a program versus developing a new program.

External Contacts

  • CSD academic and clinical colleagues at other universities—to share curriculum, academic, and clinical policies and procedures
  • Central administrators from other universities (e.g., deans, provosts)—to identify key resources and opportunities if considering a consortium
  • State higher education agency personnel who review new academic programs for the governing board—to help you understand approval requirements and procedures
  • State K-12 education agency personnel who review and approve programs that lead to teacher licensure/certification—to help you understand the requirements of operating a program that will enable graduates to work in the schools
  • State licensing board personnel—to help you understand the academic, clinical, and other requirements of practicing in the state
  • ASHA Certification personnel—to help you understand the academic, clinical, and other requirements of achieving a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC), contact
  • ASHA Academic Accreditation personnel—to help you understand the standards, requirements, and processes of the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA), contact
  • ASHA's Academic Affairs and Research Education staff—to provide you with relevant data from the Communication Sciences & Disorders (CSD) Education Survey National Aggregate Data Report and other resources, contact

It is useful to network with CSD academic and clinical faculty from other universities. These faculty could include representatives from recently created and approved graduate programs; programs within the same state; programs with similar student demographics; and public, private, or religious universities, based on the characteristics of the university that is starting the program.

Colleges and universities may be considering the value of participation in a consortium with other CSD programs in the state or region. Participation in a consortium may decrease costs through the economies of scale associated with the involvement of multiple universities. When considering this option, your first step should be to meet with personnel in the state higher education agency or university governing board to determine the requirements for consortia. These requirements may include approval by multiple university governing boards. The feasibility of obtaining such approval in a timely fashion would be a key consideration in moving forward with planning a consortium. Additional issues to consider are aligning the curriculum across multiple institutions, including how credit hours are calculated, and the universities' requirements for graduate faculty.

Getting Started With a Feasibility Study

Initially, the core team (see Section 1, Creating a Team) will meet to conduct a feasibility study.

Ultimately, the results of the feasibility study should provide the core team with some direction on whether the university should move forward with the proposal for a new program. The analysis should answer questions such as

  • Is there sufficient demand for a program and clinical services in the region/state?
  • What are the financial demands of creating a program? What funding opportunities can you capitalize on to address those demands?
  • Is the university considering the addition or expansion of other academic programs at the same time, and if so, what impact will that have on approval of the proposed CSD program?
  • Is there a sufficient applicant pool of academic and clinical faculty?
  • Is there a potential pool of students who will enroll in the program?
  • Will students have sufficient opportunities for clinical experiences?

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.

Deciding to Create a Program

The data the team collects to analyze the demand, viability, and support for a new program should help answer questions of feasibility and (see Section 1, Getting Started with a Feasibility Study) determine whether to move forward with developing a proposal for a new program. Conducting discussions with your administration before proceeding may be beneficial at this juncture to determine whether timing (about both the process and the opportunity) is optimal for writing and submitting a program proposal.

Section 2: Developing a Proposal for a New Program


This section focuses on the process of preparing and submitting a proposal for a new communication sciences and disorders (CSD) program.

Once the decision to move forward with developing a new program has been made, the team will need to create a work plan that identifies major steps in the development process, including a timeline. This timeline will vary among institutions and the specific internal and external approval processes, funding opportunities, and existing resources (personnel and facility). Major steps in the program's development would include:

  • design of mission and goals
  • development of curriculum
  • establishment of clinical experiences
  • submission of applications for program approval
  • hiring of faculty
  • recruiting students
  • enrollment of student

All of these elements will support the numerous proposals and documents for internal and external approval of the program. Internal approvals include the university's curriculum and policy committees, administration, and governing board. External approval processes include obtaining approval from the regional accrediting agency (a critical first step) and from your state's higher education agency and also may include seeking accreditation for the program (see Section 4, Seeking Accreditation) after these approvals are achieved. Depending on the state, you may have to seek approval from the state department of education for the proposed curriculum to ensure graduates' eligibility to apply for teacher certification. Note that university- and state-level approvals are generally made by a governing body at the recommendation of university administration or state agency staff. Be aware of opportunities to submit applications through simultaneous or sequential reviews.

Getting Started With the Proposal

Successful approval is often facilitated by meeting with key personnel, both internal and external to the institution. This process helps to identify information that is required or desired, competing interests that may need to be considered (e.g., the number of new programs that will be approved during a given time period), and timelines for the approval process. In addition, these preliminary meetings provide the opportunity to create relationships with key personnel who will be responsible for reviewing and recommending your proposed program.

Review and thoroughly understand your institution's strategic plan and the strategic plan for the appropriate academic unit (e.g., Graduate School or School of Allied Health). By taking this important step, you ensure that the projected new program is consistent with the institution's long-term plans. For example, if the college is planning to invest in technology and business fields, this may not be the appropriate time to seek support for a new CSD program. On the other hand, if the college is anticipating growth in the areas of health professions or education, the timing may be just right. It also may be necessary to review any memoranda of agreement between your institution and other schools in the university system or region. For example, there may be an agreement that a school in the region will build strength in the health careers or that there will be no additional programs in the system for a certain period of time.

Locate the guidelines or procedures for submitting graduate academic program proposals for your institution. These guidelines typically are housed in the Academic Affairs or the Provost's office. Review the guidelines to understand fully the explicit requirements, responsibilities, and processes for establishing a new graduate program at your institution.

Discuss the project with the dean, provost, and Office of Academic Affairs to determine whether there is support for the proposal. This conversation should help determine the implicit expectations and requirements for establishing the new program. There may be other proposals for new programs that are a higher priority in the academic year.

It will be important to develop a program that permits graduates to meet all professional credentialing requirements in a coordinated program.

Preparing the Letter of Intent

A formal letter of intent to establish a new program should be prepared according to the procedures established at your institution. A letter of intent is the first formal document about the new program. It usually precedes the submission of a formal proposal to the state or board of trustees. This letter is an opportunity to provide the vision and framework for the program. Understand the protocol in your university and in your state. For a state or land-grant institution, the letter usually is from the college president to the provost for the state-wide university system; however, this process may be handled differently at a private institution. The letter of intent may be prepared for the board of trustees or, in the case of private colleges or universities, another applicable high-level administrative office. Be sensitive to the processes and politics at your institution and in your state.

There are different ways to think about the impetus for a new program. Was it something that the administrators, president, provost, vice president for academic affairs, and/or dean initiated and now have to "sell" to the faculty? Or was it something that the faculty, and perhaps even some students or alumni of the institution, wanted and who now have to "sell" to the central administration? This information, if not known, is important to ascertain because it will influence your strategies for getting buy-in for the new program as well as provide awareness of available windows of opportunity to secure institutional financial support.

The letter of intent typically contains:

Program Identity

  • Proposed title of the department or program.
  • Proposed degree, including degree designator.
  • Anticipated beginning of the program (i.e., student enrollment). Include the timeline and the date when fiscal and other resources would be needed (e.g., start-up resources to recruit and hire faculty).
  • Description of how the academic and clinical education components of the program are related to the mission and core values of the institution. This is a required element for accreditation by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) and particularly important in private and/or faith-based institutions.
  • A brief description of academic content, structure, and number of credits for the degree program. A statement of need for the program, a projection of annual operating costs, and the number of projected students also may be required.

Planning Factors

  • Present a logical framework for your vision of the program within the context of your institution's priorities, expected growth/development, and strategic or operational plan.
  • Explain how the proposed program is consistent with recommendations or comments from institutional accreditation reviews, enrollment plans, or other ongoing planning processes.
  • Identify existing or projected programs of related disciplines on the campus, and indicate how the new program will impact these programs.
  • Identify the potential impact on the other programs, including the use of required internships, practica, and other external entities that may be using the same clinical facilities.
  • Identify similar programs at public and private institutions of higher education in the region, especially if there are similar programs that may be perceived as competitors.

Need and Demand

  • Report results of the feasibility (see Section 1, Getting Started With a Feasibility Study) study to document the need for the program.
  • Identify the need for the proposed program within the institution and also within other institutions in the region and/or system in terms of the economy and/or educational needs of the region, state, and nation.
  • Report the statistics from the national and state Departments of Labor to show projections of need for graduates in the professions for the foreseeable future (see Section 1, Getting Started With a Feasibility Study).
  • Include letters of support from potential employers to justify the need for program graduates. If there is to be a special focus of the program, show how the program will close gaps or weaknesses in existing training programs.
  • Estimate the projected full-time equivalent (FTE) student enrollment for the proposed program with estimates of how the proposed program will affect existing campus enrollment. For example, is it expected that the proposed program will result in increased enrollment or a redistribution of currently enrolled students? To support an increase in enrollment, indicate whether existing programs in the region are able to meet enrollment demands.

Fiscal Factors

Include a statement of projected costs for the first 3-5 years of the program, indicating how the program and costs will be phased in over time. Be as realistic as possible. If your projected costs are too high, the project may be rejected because of the high student-to-cost ratio. On the other hand, if you do not ask for enough financial support, you may have a difficult time requesting additional funds for faculty and unanticipated expenses later. As you develop the budget, check with other programs of comparable size in the area to determine the cost for personnel, including clinic and secretarial staff and other expenses for the program such as supplies, telephone, equipment, copying, and accreditation fees.

  • Indicate the total internal funding requirements for the program, including operational and personnel costs. Operational costs should include the need for equipment and supplies as well as costs for capital expenses. Personnel costs should include cost for benefits which could be as high as 40% of the salary.
  • Identify possible existing resources on campus that could be shared with the new department such as student computers, software, or speech science equipment.
  • Indicate possible sources of external funding, particularly for start-up costs and support for students. Locate possible grants and potential contracts to reduce the dependence on internal funds for the initial program costs.
  • Identify the return on investment for the proposed program over at least a 5-year (or other suitable) period. Include the expected tuition and fees collected by the institution in relation to the total costs for the program.

Receiving a Response to the Letter of Intent

The administration will review the letter of intent and provide a formal response. This may take a few weeks or a few months, depending on the institution. Discuss with the campus provost the usual time for the administration's response to a letter of intent. If the lapsed time is unusually long, ask the provost to follow up with the central administration to determine when a response can be expected.

The response will come to the president or person who submitted the proposal. If the response is affirmative, the program will be asked to submit a formal proposal within a specified time period. This may be as long as 2 years or as short as 6 months. Address all specifications in the request for a formal proposal, including requirements for an external evaluation by an independent party prior to submission of the formal proposal.

Preparing and Submitting the Formal Proposal

The formal proposal is submitted to the appropriate administrator with greater detail than was presented in the letter of intent.

Detailed Program Description

This is the most important part of the formal proposal and should be given considerable attention and detail. The proposed program will yield graduates that meet the highest requirements to practice (i.e., Certificate of Clinical Competence [CCC], state licensure, teacher certification). The following components typically are expected in the formal proposal:

  • Full description of the program, including program purpose, structure, content, and prospective descriptions of each course for the catalog. When determining the number of credits for the program, be mindful of "credit creep." Developing a new program is an opportunity to be creative in the way the program is offered rather than using the traditional course-by-course model. Remember that speech-language pathology (SLP) graduate programs are now competency based, and documentation of mastery of student learning outcomes is just as important as credits. Consider what courses may exist in other departments/programs at your institution that could lend themselves to interdisciplinary collaboration (e.g., research methods, neuroscience, psycholinguistics). Include program admission and degree completion requirements, including whether a thesis will be required.
  • A list of the proposed sequence of courses that prospective students will be required to take as well as any electives by academic term (semester/quarter). This sequence will demonstrate the time needed to complete the program and will reflect any necessary faculty resources.
  • Description of significant resources, including on-campus clinics, laboratories and off-campus internship sites, and other resources.
  • Description of how the students will meet requirements for teacher certification and/or licensure in the state as well national clinical certification.
  • The proposed faculty-to-student ratio, the number of existing faculty, and the need for additional faculty and staff. This information should include academic and clinical faculty, administrative staff, and any need for graduate assistants employed by the university. The faculty needs should include consideration of the responsibilities for scholarship, teaching, and service as expected by the institution and as specified in the mission of the proposed department.


Identify the availability of sufficient faculty to conduct the program. It may not be necessary to have the full complement of faculty at the beginning of the program. However, if the program does not have sufficient faculty to offer the program, a detailed plan should be presented to show when the faculty will be needed and the plan for bringing the faculty to the desired level. The following components typically are expected in the formal proposal:

  • Indication of who will be the program coordinator or department chair.
  • Vitae of all current faculty who will implement the program, including their responsibilities for the program.
  • Indication of changes anticipated in the existing faculty in the next 3-5 years, including new appointments and anticipated retirements, promotions, and tenure decisions.
  • An outline of the qualifications of additional faculty who will be recruited to the program, including the particular course or supervisory responsibilities and a timetable for their recruitment and hiring. Include the availability of part-time faculty to provide specialized coursework and/or clinical supervision.


Identify the availability of prospective students, and ensure that you have developed the recruitment and admissions processes. The following components typically are expected in the formal proposal:

  • Description of the criteria and procedures for admission. Include any prerequisite courses as well as the anticipated grade-point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score requirements consistent with the unit where the program will be administratively housed and other graduate programs in the institution (e.g., the graduate school or School of Education).
  • Description of the type of students to be recruited. Include a reference to the enrollment plans and mission of the institution. Of particular interest may be special efforts to enroll students from a particular geographic region, racial/ethnic minority groups, students of a particular gender, international students, students with disabilities, or other particular groups of interest to the institution and where there is need in the profession.
  • Describe any special financial support that may be available for the students, such as graduate assistantships or financial aid.

Facilities and Equipment

Describe the facilities, equipment, and resources that are currently available and those that will be necessary for the program. If capital expenditure is necessary, it may be difficult to justify the cost. You should make every attempt to use existing resources within the institution. Describe needed resources and equipment for the proposed program consistent with the mission of the university, the goals of the program, and the mode of delivery. Indicate where the program will be located, and ensure that you have garnered support for these additional facilities and equipment from the campus administrators in charge of space and facilities. Additional space is commonly requested and is often in short supply on many campuses, so you will have to negotiate this need carefully with the administration as part of the formal proposal. Specifically, the description should include

  • general and special library holdings and additional acquisitions necessary for the program;
  • the need for computers and special software;
  • research and laboratory equipment;
  • access to additional materials and resources available in the community (e.g., augmentative alternative communication (AAC) equipment at a cooperating agency, opportunity for collaboration with other units or departments to share resources);
  • the need for faculty offices, classrooms, administrative offices, student work space, and clinical space (Be certain that the facility needs are consistent with the requirements for accreditation and are consistent with the facilities of other graduate programs at the institution).

Program Costs

When preparing the formal proposal for your program, give careful consideration to determining realistic income/expense projections. This important step helps you to determine your anticipated return on investment. Sections of the formal proposal include a Revenues section (with line items for tuition and fees) and an Expenses section (with line items for personnel, space and infrastructure needs, equipment and supplies, start-up costs, accreditation costs, insurance for student clinicians, professional memberships, and professional development).

Academic Quality Assurance

It will be important to show how program quality will be monitored and maintained. This may include a site visit by an external independent evaluator prior to submission of the formal proposal. Consult with the provost or dean to determine the usual expectation for academic programs in the institution. Costs associated with conducting the external review are the responsibility of the institution.

In the formal proposal, indicate whether the program will seek accreditation, such as through the CAA (see accreditation), including the timetable and costs for completing the accreditation process. Depending on the mission of the program or institution, specific types of external reviews may be recommended or required.

Final Proposal Submission

Prior to submission of the final proposal, be sure to address all comments and concerns that the external evaluator noted from the site visit. In an annotated report, indicate which of the evaluator's concerns have been or will be adopted and why others cannot be adopted at this time. Hold any final discussions with the provost and other appropriate administrators to clarify any concerns in the final proposal prior to submission to the appropriate administrative body.

Navigating the Approval Process

A well-planned program balances the ideas of faculty, staff, and administrators who have contributed to the program's development. Be careful not to design a program that is so different from the custom at the institution that central administrators will turn it down. Therefore, consider at what point(s) in the process the program proposal should be reviewed and by whom. There is no definitive answer to this question. The best way to know is to have a number of open, honest preliminary conversations with your dean, to work closely with him/her throughout the process, and to be very aware of and sensitive to campus politics.

Generally, when the dean completes and reviews the new program proposal, your team will present it to the curriculum committee. This committee typically consists of faculty representatives from each department/program in the unit. One of their charges is to ensure that the curriculum of a new program meets the standards established by the institution regarding the relationship to mission, culture, and academic rigor, while not duplicating existing resources. Be sure to emphasize these points when presenting the new program proposal to this group.

Once approved by the curriculum committee, the new program proposal is ultimately presented to the board of trustees or other unit for final approval. In many private institutions, the board of trustees is the group to whom the university/college president reports and has overall fiscal responsibility for the institution. Decisions, therefore, primarily are made based on the fiscal benefit to the institution. Fiscal decisions are determined within the context of mission, culture, and core values. Either the board of trustees or the college-wide committee is responsible for approving academic programs offered at the institution. Remember that persons who sit on committees usually are not experts in your discipline. Therefore, give careful consideration to how best to frame the presentation with regard to mission, culture, and core values and who from your department should attend. The presentation should be clear, concise, and free of professional jargon. Logical development of the case-explaining why the new program is needed and the fiscal benefits to the institution-is crucial to the board or committee's approval. Generally, the program director, department chair, and dean collaborate on making the formal presentation to the academic affairs committee or the board of trustees.


A variety of items may get approved following submission of the proposal at various stages. Recognize that the proposal in its current form may not be accepted or approved, as the approving authority will review and suggest alternatives to the original proposal. Budget considerations often play a major role.

Examples include

  • approval to create the program by the university administration, contingent on approval by the Board of Trustees or other governing body;
  • approval of the curriculum and the program by the university's curriculum committee;
  • approval of the new program by the state higher education governing body;
  • approval by the regional accreditation agency;
  • approval by the state Department of Education, in some cases.

If the original proposal does not get accepted, the team may have to rewrite sections or provide additional arguments to support the proposal. In some cases, timing may be the issue; your team may want to consider resubmission at a later date. Depending on which entity-for example, the curriculum committee, the state Department of Education, or the accrediting agency-denies approval, the team may examine alternatives consistent with the proposal submission process. Other possibilities include submitting the proposal to another school or college (e.g., Graduate School of Arts and Sciences vs. School of Allied Health), which may require adapting certain sections of the proposal to ensure consistency with the goals and directions of the alternate unit.

Section 3: Implementing the Academic Program


Your proposal for a new communication sciences and disorders (CSD) program has been approved! The excitement continues, and making the proposal a reality is your new challenge. Framing that challenge is contingent upon the degree of financial support that your proposal received from the institution. It is essential that the institution provide adequate financial support for the establishment of the CSD program so that the program can achieve its stated mission, goals, and objectives.

Some program proposals receive full approval and can be developed based on the original proposal. Others may receive approval with the proviso that the program be implemented in progressive stages. The next section describes specific information about budget allocation and administration, faculty, curriculum development, models of education, physical facilities, equipment needs, human resources, and library resources that are necessary to implement your newly approved program.

Administering the Budget(s)

After state and institutional approvals, the program will become operational under two separate budgets: a one-time start-up budget (including funding for the physical space and initial purchase of equipment and materials) and operating and capital budgets for maintaining the program from year to year.

Administration and management of the program include understanding your institution's requisition system, bidding process, budget cycle, department policies, and human resources. Members of this new CSD program need to work closely with other departments to implement the new program in a timely manner.

Space and equipment needs, which are budgeted from the institution, include

  • architect/contractors;
  • entrances, lavatories, and treatment rooms that are accessible for persons with disabilities;
  • materials (office supplies, copying costs, postage);
  • equipment (office furniture, treatment room furniture, filing cabinets);
  • computers, printers, copy machine, telephones, fax machine (including maintenance contracts).

Securing some resources may depend on the timing of when resources are needed as well as when funds are available to make the requisition and purchase. Be aware of when budget requests must be submitted to the administration.

Developing Program Policies and Procedures

To implement the new program fully, several policies and procedures will need to be developed, modified to meet the CSD program's goals, or accessed to support institution-wide initiatives. These resources typically are organized into comprehensive resources, such as a manual or handbook, and may be available on the program's website or in print. Program administrators should consider the development of a program Web site that would provide current information about admissions, academic calendar, course/curriculum information, grading policies, fees or their charges unique to the graduate program, and the graduate program's accreditation status.

Resources such as a student manual, available and/or updated by the time of students' orientation, are extremely helpful. Program administrators may choose to develop a single guidebook for students and faculty or to develop a separate student handbook and clinic manual. These important items should be included in the guidebooks:

  • published policies and procedures, including remediation plan for marginal students;
  • available student services/resources;
  • curriculum description and sequence;
  • maintenance of academic standing (probation/dismissal procedures);
  • graduation requirements, including comprehensive exam and/or thesis/research expectations;
  • professional credentialing information or links, including state teacher certification, licensure, and ASHA clinical certification;
  • nondiscrimination statement;
  • compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), including patient privacy/confidentiality;
  • universal precautions;
  • sample administrative forms (e.g., client consent forms, clinical hour tracking);
  • professional resource links (ASHA, National Student Speech Language Hearing Association [NSSLHA], state associations);
  • Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) contact information for student complaints/inquiries.

Recruiting Faculty and Students

Faculty Recruitment

Considerations for staffing the academic program are dependent on whether you are initiating a new graduate program or expanding an existing program (refer to institutional or graduate school policies). Roles and responsibilities need to be identified for all faculty and staff, including responsibilities for an on-campus clinic, if applicable. The faculty hiring plan should take into account timing and effort of administrative responsibilities as well as planned curricular sequence, including preparing and submitting proposals, applications, and so forth. Salaries for faculty and staff may not be supported by tuition-generated income prior to when students arrive on campus, so these may need to be factors to consider under start-up costs.

The faculty hiring cycle may be dependent on the development plan for the program and availability of funding for the positions. The following list represents a typical faculty roster:

  • program director (full-time position)
  • academic and clinical faculty
    • full-time and/or part-time
    • doctoral-level faculty
    • needed areas of expertise
  • clinic director/placement coordinator/supervisor/preceptor
    • faculty, staff, or administrative positions
    • full-time and/or part-time
  • adjunct faculty (academic or clinical)
  • administrative staff

The program director should develop job descriptions and expectations for all of these positions. The faculty descriptions should include any additional administrative responsibilities (e.g., tracking of student knowledge and skill acquisition, tracking supervised clinical hours, advising, serving as graduate program coordinator). Obtain the institution's tenure and promotion policies, and apply them to the job description. Be sure to specify your teaching, research, and service expectations for tenure at your institution.

The program director should plan for the hiring process, which typically includes the following steps:

  • Obtaining necessary approvals from your institution.
  • Notifying Human Resources of new positions.
  • Posting positions in professional publications and/or online (e.g., The ASHA Leader, Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders [CAPCSD] Web site, The Chronicle of Higher Education, ADVANCE for Speech-Language Pathologists,

Several resources are available to help to determine the salary range for the faculty and clinical staff positions. Many factors can affect the range of salary and benefit packages, including geographic area, size of the institution, school in which the program is administratively housed (e.g., School of Allied Health, School of Education), and the minimum educational level and years of college teaching/supervisory experience required for the positions. Depending on the institution, salary scales may be based on an hourly rate or the 9-, 10-, or 12-month annual salary. These resources may be helpful in determining the salary range that is appropriate for your faculty hires:

  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Current advertised faculty postings at other institutions in your geographic area
  • CAPCSD Web site
  • Range of salaries at CSD programs in your geographic area or at a similar type of institution
  • Human Resources department of your institution

The following activities are recommended for hiring faculty and recruiting students:

  • Develop a hiring schedule (map the time frame for hiring which faculty and when, taking into consideration program development/administration goals such as accreditation applications, student recruitment, course sequencing, etc.).
  • Recruit key faculty 12-18 months prior to program initiation.
  • Advertise at ASHA Convention and other professional meetings.
  • Advertise in professional publications and on Web sites (e.g., The ASHA Leader, ASHA Web site, CAPCSD Web site, state association publications).
  • Design an interview process and timeline.

Student Recruitment

The admission criteria were developed and established during the proposal process. It will be important to partner with the college/school in which the program is housed and/or the graduate school to coordinate student recruitment initiatives. Feasibility data may inform the program of target student markets. Your student recruitment effort may consist of the following:

  • Begin recruiting students approximately 12-18 months prior to anticipated student enrollment.
  • Publish and implement admissions procedures, policies, and criteria.
  • Publish tuition and fees in accordance with institutional guidelines.
  • Identify target student applicant pool, which could include undergraduate students (either in or not in the discipline), individuals holding BA/BS degrees in CSD, and career changers.
  • Develop program Web site.
  • Inform existing undergraduate programs in your geographic area about the program.
  • Advertise with state, county, regional, and local colleges and universities.
  • Advertise with regional and state speech-language-hearing associations and ASHA publications and meetings.
  • Recruitment activities can be sponsored through the graduate school (e.g., Allied Health). If there is no school structure, participate in institution-wide recruitment activities.
  • Work with the Graduate Admissions office to establish a protocol for submitting and processing applications; some programs may have parallel reviews with the Graduate School, whereas others may be sequential.

Implementing the Curriculum

This section gives guidance about how to refine and add more details to the proposed curriculum design. To begin conceptualizing a new CSD program, refer to the mission statements of the institution and the program. These statements will form the foundation of the program's curriculum development and the delivery system. In addition, remember to balance the academic and clinical education components to ensure the breadth and depth of the scope of practice.

Some programs may have unique features or may focus on a particular clinical setting or population (e.g., medical vs. school-based focus).

The following considerations are critical in finalizing the curriculum design:

  • Ensure that program goals guide curriculum development, implementation, and assessment.
  • Specify the core knowledge and skills necessary to enter independent professional practice, including
    • incorporating evidence-based practice in coursework and clinical education;
    • infusing multicultural elements into the curriculum;
    • including ethics education, contemporary professional issues, and business practices;
    • providing access to clients across the lifespan with a variety of communication disorders.
  • Identify student learning outcomes for the overall program and courses.
  • Ensure that your program reflects compliance with the CAA standards [PDF].
  • Ensure that your program reflects compliance with the Council For Clinical Certification's (CFCC) standards, state licensure requirements, and state teacher certification requirements, as appropriate.

Curriculum Sequence and Course Development

Although the program offerings and course descriptions were developed during the proposal phase, the program director and faculty need to complete the program design in order to implement it fully. This may include modifying the original curricular design and sequence to be consistent with the faculty hiring plan and access to/procurement of needed space, materials, and equipment. Additional considerations when designing and implementing the curriculum include the following:

  • Faculty participation in curriculum development
    • creating content and course outlines
    • mapping knowledge and skills (i.e., identifying courses across the curriculum where knowledge and skills are taught)
    • refining course descriptions, if warranted
    • creating course syllabi and outlines to be submitted to curriculum committee for approval
    • identifying diagnostic tests and instructional materials to support student learning
  • Sequencing
    • balancing academic and clinical components of the curriculum
    • developing course sequences for students, if concentrations or tracks will be featured
    • creating a time frame for degree completion
    • determining required versus elective course work
    • incorporating a research component and capstone project (if required)
  • Additional considerations
    • determining the frequency of course offerings and number of sections per course
    • using distance learning and technology in course offerings (telecommunication technologies may be used exclusively or in combination with a classroom setting [hybrid or blended courses])

A number of resources can guide faculty in planning curriculum and courses (see Section 5, Resources).

Administering the Clinical Education Component

Establishing a network of external clinical affiliations is critical to the success of the students, as program administrators must ensure that students are exposed to a variety of clinical populations, disorders, and ages and are able to adapt to different clinical sites. Students will be expected to acquire knowledge and develop skills and abilities within the classroom as well as in clinical placements. The program has the responsibility for assigning student clinical placements and also for monitoring the students while in placement.

To initiate partnerships with a network of clinical sites, you may consider the following activities:

  • Disseminate literature about the new program.
  • Search the web for clinical facilities in your geographic area/region.
  • Contact local pediatric and adult educational and health care facilities.

To secure and maintain the network, consider the following standard practices:

  • Develop a description of practicum placement criteria, including qualifications of supervisors.
  • Develop a clinical affiliation agreement.
  • Communicate frequently with the site.
  • Provide opportunities for orientation and appreciation of external clinical sites and supervisors.

A number of resources can guide faculty in clinical education and identifying best practices in university-externship relationships (see Section 5, Resources).


Assessment of Knowledge and Skills of Students
  • Formative assessment measures the development of academic knowledge and clinical skills throughout the program of study and should be a component of each course (e.g., grading rubrics). Assessment tools should include method of achievement, skills exhibited, and method of evaluation. Develop procedures for evaluating the extent to which goals and objectives are achieved, and develop and implement a plan for student remediation where necessary.
  • Faculty should determine overlap of assessment across the academic and clinical curriculum. Examples of mechanisms in coursework include in-class projects as well as taking and analyzing a language sample; clinical examples include case presentations, written evaluations, and supervisory conferences.
  • Summative assessment is a comprehensive evaluation of learning outcomes at the culmination of educational preparation. Summative assessment yields critical information for determining an individual's achievement of knowledge and skills. The results of the final assessment may be used to determine eligibility for graduation. Academic examples include mid-term exam, final exam, capstone research project, and comprehensive exam. Clinical examples include mid-term and final evaluation of clinical skills (in-house and externship practicum) and capstone research project.
Assessment of Program
  • Conduct regular and ongoing assessment of academic and clinical components, program quality, currency, and effectiveness; use results for continuous improvement (e.g., curriculum changes).
  • Develop a plan for systematic self-study, including the mechanisms to evaluate each program component and the schedule on which the evaluations are conducted and analyzed (e.g., strategic planning, annual faculty retreat).
  • Evaluate consistency of offerings, resources, and student learning outcomes across delivery modes, if applicable.
  • Examples of assessment mechanisms include student exit interviews, employer satisfaction surveys, and alumni surveys; clinical supervisor evaluations; community members and advisory board evaluations
Assessment of Faculty Members
  • Develop a plan for regular evaluation of faculty by program leadership.
  • Follow institutional policy/guidelines for retention, promotion, and tenure.
  • Examples include effectiveness of teaching (course and teacher evaluations, classroom observation, evaluation committee, scholarship productivity, service to the university, community and discipline, continuing education currency, and maintenance of credentials), service (campus and community), and scholarship (research and publications).

Securing Physical Facilities, Equipment and Materials, and Library Resources

This subsection applies to physical facilities, equipment and materials, and library resources unique to a CSD program. For standard office materials, equipment, and furniture, consult your institution's requisition system to secure these items as faculty and staff are hired.

Physical Facilities

Any allocated physical facilities must be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations to ensure that they are accessible, appropriate, safe, and sufficient to achieve the program's mission, goals, and objectives. Some space needs would be prioritized for the academic program; others may be necessary if an on-campus clinic also has been approved.

Academic classrooms
  • Capacity for lecture and small-group activities relative to student cohort
  • Proximity to clinical or lab space for access to equipment and materials
Office space
  • Dedicated and/or shared office space for program director, faculty members, and administrative staff;
  • Storage space for treatment materials and office supplies, locked cabinet for standardized tests and disposable clinical items;
  • Secured filing system for student and/or client files.
Clinical facilities
  • Group and individual treatment rooms
  • Observation area
  • Audiology sound booth/suite
  • One-way mirror for observation or video observation capability
  • Client waiting room
Additional space considerations
  • Area for student study, work, and research;
  • Video monitoring and control room;
  • Special program space (e.g., child vs. adult treatment rooms, preschool programs).

Equipment and Materials

The CSD program must have access to sufficient equipment and materials to achieve the program's academic and clinical mission and goals. The following lists are samples of common materials and equipment that CSD programs use. To determine the exact resources, administrators of each program should consider the population of clients to be served and their specific needs. Programs also may want to determine if resources are available through other departments on campus or in external facilities. These lists are not exhaustive.

Classroom considerations

  • "smart" classroom equipped with built-in LCD projector, screen, TV with CD/VCR player;
  • videoconferencing capability;
  • networked computers.

Common clinic equipment and materials

  • diagnostic tests
  • audiometers
  • treatment materials
  • computer software for assessment and/or treatment
  • otoscopes
  • speech science equipment
  • immittance audiometry equipment
  • hearing aid equipment
  • disposable supplies (e.g., tongue depressor, latex gloves)
  • anatomical models or posters
  • audio/video equipment and headsets
  • select AAC devices

Library resources

Program administrators will need to identify the electronic or paper-based published resources with a focus on CSD. Librarians and other support staff may be able to provide support to students. Considerations include

  • databased subscriptions;
  • students' research or publication tools (e.g., training in American Psychological Association [APA] style, Refworks, or Endnote);
  • CSD and related journals (e.g., journals in the fields of special education, early childhood education, psychology, and gerontology);
  • reference books.

Section 4: Seeking Accreditation: What You Need to Know


The fundamental principles of accreditation are to improve the quality of teaching, learning, research, and professional practice while at the same time protecting the interests of students and benefiting the public. As the only nationally recognized accrediting agency that focuses on the discipline of communication sciences and disorders (CSD) and the fundamental interrelationship of speech, language, and hearing, the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) fulfills that multidimensional mission.

Understanding the Core Values and Benefits

The purpose of accreditation is to promote excellence and ongoing quality improvement in educational preparation while ensuring the public that graduates of accredited programs are educated in a core set of knowledge and skills for independent professional practice.

CAA-accredited academic programs have long been recognized as the standard for quality and consistency, not only by the students and the academic community but also by employers, state licensure boards, federal regulatory agencies, and related professional associations, as well as by consumers served by speech, language, and hearing practitioners.

The core values of CAA's accreditation program represent the essential and enduring guiding principles that have a profound impact on the quality of education provided by programs.

National recognition: Formally recognized as an accrediting agency by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and by the Council for Higher Education (CHEA) since the mid-1960s, the CAA is the only nationally recognized accrediting body for the discipline of communication sciences and disorders. CAA's scope of recognition is for the accreditation and preaccreditation ("accreditation candidate") throughout the United States of education programs in audiology and speech-language pathology leading to the first professional or clinical degree at the master's or doctoral level and the accreditation of these programs offered via distance education. Recognition as an accrediting agency by USDE affords CAA-accredited and candidate graduate education programs and their students' opportunities to apply for federal funding through programs such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act, as eligibility is granted only to programs accredited by a USDE-recognized agency. Recognition by both USDE and CHEA ensures continuing standards of excellence within the higher education community.

Quality: CAA-accredited programs provide a curriculum that covers the knowledge and skills required for independent professional practice in a variety of settings with a diverse client population. The criteria in place to seek and to maintain accreditation are designed to ensure students are provided education and training reflective of preferred practice patterns and emerging scopes of practice.

Voluntary: CAA-accredited programs are open to external review specific to their educational goals. Programs that participate in the self-study and review processes grow in quality and are better aligned with the professions as a result. CAA-accredited programs typically surpass the requirements of regional and other accrediting agencies and are recognized by the higher education community for their commitment to excellence.

Standards-based: Accreditation standards are developed by academic and practitioner members of the professions of audiology and speech-language pathology as a means of providing graduates with appropriate knowledge and skills for independent practice. Mechanisms to review and validate the Standards for Accreditation [PDF] include formal practice analyses and curriculum reviews, which are routinely conducted to validate standards for both professions and to further define the practice of audiology and speech-language pathology. These standards, developed for audiology and speech-language pathology, integrate the scientific principles of the CSD discipline.

Peer review: Peer review in CAA's accreditation process is practiced on more than one level. Development and review of the standards is conducted by members of the professional community. This broad participation results in curricula being updated in accordance with changing scopes of practice and also increases consistency from one program to another in terms of student learning outcomes. The CAA members and site visitors serve as peer reviewers for programs when reviewing accreditation applications and reports and providing critical feedback.

Standards for Accreditation

Accreditation standards [PDF] identify basic elements that must be included in all accredited graduate education programs but allow for flexibility in the manner in which programs pursue excellence. Quality education can be achieved in a variety of ways, and the CAA supports programs in achieving the highest standards possible.

The CAA conducts assessments of applicant programs based on its Standards for Accreditation in order to award an accreditation status such as "accreditation candidate" or "accredited." The standards are organized to address the following six areas:

  • administration and governance
  • faculty
  • curriculum (academic and clinical education)
  • students
  • assessment
  • program resources

The CAA requires applicant programs to demonstrate that they provide a comprehensive program of study and supporting resources to allow students to acquire appropriate knowledge and skills for independent professional practice. The CAA requires programs seeking an accreditation status to conduct a self-study and mandates periodic review of accredited programs to ensure that compliance with the standards is maintained.

Programs interested in pursuing an accreditation status with the CAA should review carefully the CAA's Accreditation Handbook [PDF]. New graduate programs in the process of development, including new consortia, may be eligible to submit an Application for Candidacy.

Verifying Eligibility Conditions for Candidacy

The CAA has identified specific eligibility conditions for the institution of higher education and for the program that must be met for an application for candidacy to be considered. The CAA will review applications for candidacy (or preaccreditation) from newly developed entry-level graduate degree programs that meet all institutional and programmatic eligibility requirements, which are fully described in Chapter X Eligibility and Program Development of the Accreditation Handbook [PDF].

Developing programs must keep in mind the schedule of events and required components of the accreditation process and how they are configured within the overall timeline to launch the program. Submission of an application for candidacy to the CAA will fall between major milestones of the program-receipt of final approval by the state or other authorizing body and the matriculation of the first graduate students in the new program. Also note that the institution of higher education that houses the graduate program must hold full accreditation from the relevant regional accrediting body.

To meet CAA's eligibility requirements for candidacy, the applicant program must have received all institutional and governing body approvals prior to submitting its application for review by the CAA. This includes all appropriate state or other governing authority approvals (e.g., state higher education agency or university board of regents, as defined by the type of institution). Another eligibility condition, which serves as a protection for potential students, mandates that (a) program administrators must not enroll graduate students until such time that candidacy status has been awarded by the CAA and (b) program administrators must agree to adhere to this policy when they submit the application to CAA.

Programs are expected to file their candidacy application 18 months before the program is expected to open. This is the estimated time that it will take program administrators to complete the CAA's candidacy review process, including conducting a site visit to the campus. Program administrators should allow adequate time for CAA's review and feedback on the applicant program's development plan. Please note that the candidacy timelines are estimates and are dependent on the program's ability to demonstrate readiness to offer the graduate program. Therefore, some programs may take longer than others to advance through CAA's candidacy process.

A program may submit its application for review at any time; final decisions awarding candidacy status occur during the CAA's scheduled decision-making meetings. The CAA has designated specific reporting milestones and timelines to assist in planning for new programs that are seeking candidacy status with the CAA.

Navigating the Candidacy Process

The CAA has established a step-by-step process for those programs contemplating applying for candidacy. Once an application for candidacy has been received, the step-wise review process builds on different levels of review:

  • Level 1-Readiness Review (Consultation)
  • Level 2-Official Application, Candidacy Site Visit, and Candidacy Decision (see Section 4, Participating in a Candidacy Site Visit)
  • Level 3-Program Improvement/Maintenance (Annual Progress Reports)

For more details about these processes, consult Chapter XVI Procedures for Achievement and Maintenance of Candidacy Status in the Accreditation Handbook [PDF] and/or the CAA and accreditation staff at

CAA's decision to award candidacy status is based on the program's submission of a comprehensive development plan (which is presented in the form of the candidacy application) and the program's and institution's demonstrated commitment and ability to implement the program fully. The application must describe for each accreditation standard the program's

  • plan for development and its current status in developing that component,
  • schedule for implementation of various aspects of the program,
  • evidence of progress made toward compliance with all accreditation standards.

Although compliance with all accreditation standards is not required at the time of award of candidacy, CAA expects programs to continue to develop and achieve compliance with the Standards for Accreditation in a logical sequence over several years. This sequence allows new programs to evolve over time and allows administrators to secure necessary resources to support the program, while being closely monitored by the CAA.

Documenting Standards Compliance and Development Plans

A program may use results from its feasibility study as well as applicable documentation developed during the internal and external proposal phases to support its application for candidacy to the CAA. The CAA will expect the program to highlight its schedule for implementation of various aspects of the program. It also should provide evidence demonstrating compliance and/or required progress at the time of application and at the time of CAA's site visit and decisions to award candidacy.

The following table presents the suggested documentation and materials to be provided at the time of submitting the application for candidacy as well as what should be in evidence and what should be available at the time of the candidacy site visit. The evidence or descriptions provided at the time of the site visit also will inform the CAA in its final accreditation decision about the applicant program. The CAA's Standards Compliance Continuum, describes details about the expected development and compliance levels. References to major sections of the Standards for Accreditation [PDF] are in parentheses.

Recommended activities or source documents/materials Developed by time of submission Evidence at time of site visit/final decision

Copy of approval letter has been secured from institution.

X n/a

Copy of approval letter has been secured from authorizing body (e.g., state higher education agency or board of regents).

X n/a

Letter/document has been secured affirming, by program administrators and institutional representatives, in the application that (a) they will not enroll students into the applicant program until CAA has awarded candidacy status and (b) they fully understand that failure to comply with this condition shall have serious ramifications.

X n/a

Program director is in place and curriculum vita is presented (Section 1.0).


Nondiscrimination policies are in place and are appropriate to the program (Section 1.0).


Student admission criteria (Section 4.0).


Financial support (budget) is secured (Section 6.0).


Organizational flowchart is available; this indicates academic independence of program and the program director's and faculty's access to upper administration (Section 1.0).


Program's mission statement and strategic plan are written, including program goals; dissemination methods to students and faculty are outlined (Section 1.0).


Faculty handbook is written and available for all faculty (Sections 1.0, 2.0).


Curriculum is approved (Sections 1.0, 3.0).


Evidence of sufficiency of curriculum, including (Section 3.0)

  • total credits required for the degree;
  • frequency and sequence of course offerings;
  • coursework that would provide for depth and breadth of scope of practice appropriate for the discipline;
  • identification of clinical education requirements and opportunities;
  • identification of research opportunities for students, as appropriate for program's mission/goals and institution's expectations for the degree.

External practicum sites and supervisors have been identified; letters of agreement have been signed.


Methods and procedures have been developed for tracking student's academic and clinical progress-described in application; evidence is documented at site visit (Section 5.0).


Process has been developed to assess student learning outcomes-described in application; evidence is documented at site visit (Sections 1.0, 5.0).


Process to assess quality, currency, and effectiveness of program has been developed, as assessed by students, graduates, program, and employers-described in application; evidence is documented at site visit (Section 5.0).


Faculty lines are approved and funding is secured for all new faculty lines, including clinical instructor positions; hiring plan is in place by time of site visit (Sections 2.0, 6.0).


Sufficiency of clerical and administrative staff is described in application; evidence of sufficiency is documented by time of site visit (Section 6.0).


Sufficiency of faculty is described in application; evidence is documented at site visit, including (Sections 2.0, 3.0)

  • academic course offerings
  • clinical supervision
  • doctoral-level faculty
  • academic advising

Mechanism has been developed for evaluation of academic and clinical competency of the faculty- described in application; evidence is documented at site visit (Sections 2.0, 5.0).


Mechanism has been developed for evaluation of effectiveness of program leadership by department chair-described in application; evidence is documented at site visit (Sections 1.0, 2.0, 5.0).


Physical facilities have been acquired, including adequate classrooms, administrative offices, faculty offices, computers and software, clinical and research equipment, student work rooms, and clinical space-described in application; facilities have been secured and are available for use at site visit (Section 6.0).


Adequacy of library resources has been addressed-described in application; evidence is documented at site visit (Section 6.0).


Participating in a Candidacy Site Visit

Part of the candidacy decision process includes a candidacy site visit, conducted over 1½-2 days with a 2-member site visit team. The purposes of the candidacy site visit are to

  • verify accuracy of information provided in the application and resolve questions/concerns that arose from review of the application;
  • directly observe program resources and space on campus and interact with program leadership;
  • document that compliance with accreditation standards was verified, consistent with CAA's expectations to award candidacy;
  • facilitate CAA's decision making for new program applicants by providing a written report of the visit.

The site visit is scheduled to occur once a program's candidacy application is accepted for review and before the CAA makes any official candidacy decisions. The candidacy site visit may be scheduled at any time during the year and is not limited to the academic term, provided that key representatives of the program and institution are available. Participation by the program director, graduate faculty, and dean or provost is expected during the conduct of the visit. Detailed information about preparing for the visit is included in Chapter XVIX Site Visit Planning and Conduct in the Accreditation Handbook [PDF].

Maintaining Accreditation Status

Annual Progress Reports

Once candidacy is awarded, the program is monitored for continued development and compliance with the accreditation standards through the program's submission of annual progress reports throughout its candidacy cycle, ensuring that the program is maintaining compliance with established standards. This periodic review process provides the program with an opportunity to respond to any previous concerns as well as the chance to inform the CAA of any anticipated changes in the program.

Details about the annual candidacy progress reports, review process, and decision options are described fully in Chapter XVI Procedures for Achievement and Maintenance of a Candidacy Status in the Accreditation Handbook [PDF}.

Application for Accreditation

Once a candidate program successfully fulfills its annual progress reporting, it may submit an application for accreditation with the CAA. For accreditation to be awarded, all programs must demonstrate full compliance with all standards. Any program that did not meet all eligibility conditions to be reviewed through the candidacy program (e.g., student enrollment in the graduate program) but that does offer an eligible graduate program may apply to CAA for accreditation through this process.

Details about the application and review process and decision options are described fully in Chapter XVII Procedures for Achievement and Maintenance of an Accredited Status of the Accreditation Handbook [PDF]. Information about preparing for the conduct and timing of a site visit is included in Chapter XVIX Site Visit Planning and Conduct of the Accreditation Handbook [PDF].

Accreditation Resources

A complete list of CAA accredited and candidate master's degree programs in speech-language pathology and clinical doctoral programs in audiology is available on the CAA website.

The CAA website also contains further information about the CAA's accreditation program and policies, copies of the appropriate forms required for each stage of the process, and other resources. Further information can be received by sending an e-mail to

Section 5: Resources

From the ASHA Website

External Websites

Higher Education Organizations

Bureau of Labor Statistics

ASHA Corporate Partners