April 12, 2005
Push is on for a CSU professional doctorate
Legislation that would pave the way for the CSU system to begin offering professional
doctorates in selected fields is making its way through the Legislature. And
if it succeeds, Sacramento State will be on the forefront in providing advanced
training for students in programs such as audiology and physical therapy.
The bill would modify a provision of existing law-the Donahoe Higher Education Act-that gives the UC system exclusive jurisdiction to award the doctoral degree. Currently the CSU may only award joint doctorates with other universities. Senate Bill 724 would authorize the CSU to award professional/clinical doctoral degrees in selected professional field.
"A professional doctorate is not a Ph.D.," stresses Ric Brown, Sacramento State's Vice President for Academic Affairs. "We don't want to offer a research degree."
Brown adds, "The UC doesn't offer professional degrees other than in areas such as veterinary medicine, law, dentistry and medicine. These doctorates would be in audiology, physical therapy and education-programs that would be a mission shift for the UC schools if they were to offer them."
The need for the professional doctorate is already being felt in audiology. By 2007, the master's degree will no longer fulfill the required Certificate of Clinical Competence. A clinical doctorate in audiology, an Au.D., will be the entry level degree to practice.
As a result, Sacramento State's speech pathology and audiology program, one of only two audiology programs in Northern California, has already had to put its master's degree program in audiology on hold. The last master's degree students were admitted last spring.
"There's no reason to have students in the master's program if they will be unable to practice upon graduation. It's no longer the entry degree," Brown says. The loss of the master's program is expected to have an impact on the department's ability to provide hearing tests at the Maryjane Rees Language, Speech and Hearing Center because the testing was formerly part of the graduate students' clinical training.
And the future looks even more grim. "Pretty soon, without any public universities providing the clinical doctorate, the state of California will have a shortage of trained audiologists," Brown says.
That would limit the number of practitioners who can provide hearing assessments and rehabilitation to the state's children and adults. "We're not going to be able to fill the demand," says James McCartney, chair of the Speech Pathology and Audiology department, who notes that most of the Sacramento Region's practicing audiologists are Sacramento State graduates.
And while audiology has the most pressing need for a clinical doctorate, Brown says that the next area of concern could be physical therapy. "The profession is not demanding the professional doctorate yet, but it's coming," he says. "There's also talk of having it in nursing on certain levels."
The pending legislation would only authorize the CSU to offer professional doctorates in limited fields. And while the UC has the option to begin offering doctorates in these areas, "It would be expensive for another university to start a program," Brown says. "Audiology, for example, requires labs, faculty, a clinic site. And we already have all that. We're not creating a new program. To expand is a natural."
In the meantime, Sacramento State is looking into joint programs with UC and private schools, or even an out-of-state effort with the University of Nevada, Reno. Whatever the decision, Brown says the program will be designed to be self-supporting.
SB 724 is tentatively scheduled to be heard on April 13.
California State University, Sacramento Public Affairs
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