Academic journal article College Student Journal

Do Counseling Master's Program Websites Help? Prospective Students' Ratings

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Do Counseling Master's Program Websites Help? Prospective Students' Ratings

Article excerpt

To see how students understand information about counseling programs from school websites, in January and February, 2012,43 undergraduates (most women) at a co-educational religious college in the southeastern U. S. obtained website information about accreditation, tuition, and number of hours and faculty on 14 schools in Louisiana. They also rated the websites on informs, easy and satisfies. Students either thought all schools were accredited, or failed to answer the accreditation question. Students perceived the seven accredited schools as requiring significantly more hours than the seven non-accredited schools. Accreditation did not make a difference on ratings of tuition or number of faculty, but students rated accredited schools' websites as significantly better (C+ letter grade) than non-accredited schools' websites (C). Because prospective master's students do not understand accreditation and tuition information counseling master's programs would do well to monitor and update their school websites, taking special care to provide information about tuition and financial aid.

Keywords: Website, Master's; Counseling

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Counseling programs prepare mental health professionals according to different mandates and following different guidelines. Accreditation is an issue for many schools and provides evidence that the program meets certain standards. In counseling, the nation's largest and most prestigious accreditation body is the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs (CACREP). Established in 1981, CACREP standards include eight core areas: professional orientation and ethical practice, social and cultural diversity, human growth and development, career development, helping relationships, group work, assessment, and research and program evaluation (CACREP, 2009).

Accreditation status conveys varied benefits, including national recognition, prestige, and professional expertise for graduates (Smaby & D'Andrea, 1995). For example, students from CACREP-accredited programs score higher, on average, on the National Counselor Examination than students from non-CACREP-accredited programs (Adams, 2005). In addition, faculty members from CACREP-accredited programs publish and hold leadership positions in counseling and counselor education more, on average, than faculty members from non-CACREP-accredited programs (Milsom & Akos, 2005). Because CACREP accreditation provides direct benefits to students and indirect benefits in the form of professionally active teachers, accreditation status would be an important consideration for students applying to a master's program in counseling.

Counseling programs often desire CACREP status, but sometimes lack the resources and personnel to achieve accreditation. In 1992, reasons for non-accreditation given to the CACREP office included high cost of the accreditation process, fear that enrollment would decrease if graduates were required to complete a 48 semester-hour program, and a belief that the standards were too prescriptive and unattainable (Bobby & Kandor, 1992). Programs that are not accredited by CACREP establish their own curriculum using the counseling experience and training of their faculty, professional preferences, and their own unique strengths and mandate. Counseling programs that are not accredited by CACREP may be effective, but quality assessment of them may be difficult (Boes, Snow, Chibbaro, & Hancock, 2009), due in part to lack of standardization of learning objectives.

Potential students for master's degrees in counseling often have several schools from which to choose. In addition to accreditation status, they need a variety of information when considering graduate school, including tuition rate, hours required, and specific training available.

They obtain accreditation and other information from many sources, but a primary one in today's era of technology is the school's website. …

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