Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Factors Influencing Counseling Students' Enrollment Decisions: A Focus on CACREP

Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Factors Influencing Counseling Students' Enrollment Decisions: A Focus on CACREP

Article excerpt

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) provides specialized accreditation for counselor education programs. Within higher education, accreditation is a "quality assurance and enhancement mechanism" premised on self-regulation through intensive self-study and external program review (Urofsky, 2013, p. 6). Accreditation has been reported to be particularly relevant to prospective counseling students, given increases in both the number of programs seeking CACREP accreditation (Ritchie & Bobby, 2011) and implications of program accreditation status for students' postgraduation opportunities. Research to date has not surveyed counseling students about their knowledge of CACREP accreditation prior to or following enrollment in graduate-level counseling programs.

Graduate Program Enrollment Decisions

For prospective counseling students, selecting an appropriate counselor preparation program for graduate-level study is an exceedingly complex task. Prospective students must choose from a myriad of options across mental health fields, areas of specialization and program delivery formats (i.e., traditional, virtual and hybrid classrooms). Those prospective students who are unfamiliar with CACREP accreditation and potential implications of program accreditation status for postgraduation opportunities may not sufficiently consider accreditation a relevant criterion during selection of a graduate-level counselor education program.

To date, the majority of higher education enrollment research has focused on undergraduate students. Hossler and Gallager (1987) outlined a three-stage college selection model that integrates econometric, sociologie and information-processing concerns of prospective enrollees. The first stage, predisposition, culminates with a decision to attend college or not. Past student achievement, ability and level of educational aspiration, along with parental income, education and encouragement, are important influences at this stage. The second stage, search, includes gathering information about prospective institutions, submitting applications and receiving admission decision(s). Finally, choice, describes the selection of a college or university. Factors influencing enrollment decisions include a variety of personal and institutional characteristics including socioeconomic status, financial costs and aid, academic qualities, location, and recruitment correspondence (Hossler & Gallager, 1987).

Academic reputation, job prospects for graduates, campus visits, campus size and financial aid offerings have been identified as critical factors influencing undergraduate student enrollment decisions (Hilston, 2006). Research also has underscored the weight of parental opinions in shaping undergraduate student enrollment decisions. More limited research has examined factors influencing graduate student enrollment decisions, but appears necessary given differences across contexts of individuals making undergraduate versus graduate-level enrollment decisions.

Within a non-field-specific survey of 2,834 admitted graduate students, Kallio (1995) found the following factors to be most influential in participants' program selection and enrollment decisions: (a) residency status, (b) quality and other academic environment characteristics, (c) work-related concerns, (d) spouse considerations, (e) financial aid, and (f) campus social environment. A more recent examination of doctorallevel students within higher education administration programs (Poock & Love, 2001) indicated similar influential factors with location, flexibility of accommodations for work-school-life balance, reputation and friendliness of faculty of highest importance. Flexibility of program requirements and delivery format also were indicated. Ivy and Naude (2004) surveyed 507 MBA students and identified a seven-factor model of variables influencing graduate student enrollment decisions. …

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