Screening Students Out of BSW Programs:
Responding to Professional Obligations
and Institutional Challenges
Accreditation standards advanced by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) require programs to articulate and implement criteria and processes that select from a group of admissions applicants those who are “best qualified to become professional social workers at a beginning level of practice” (1994:87). Gatekeeping in its broadest sense requires screening students at various points throughout the professional program (Moore and Urwin 1990), for example, during introductory courses, at the point of admissions and entry to the field placement, prior to and during field experiences, and throughout the professional foundation coursework. Studies of gatekeeping at the BSW level confirm that programs are reluctant to engage in screening-out practices (Dinerman 1981; Gibbs 1994a, b; Isaac et al. 1993; Wahlberg and Lommen 1990), a phenomenon that suggests possible abandonment of gatekeeping functions and responsibilities.
Screening students into social work programs generally involves admitting all students who declare an interest in a social work career (often referred to as universal admissions), building on the innate strengths of those who enter the major, attending to those who have difficulties, establishing supports for those who need remedial work, cultivating the desirable attributes in those whose attributes need enhancement, and nurturing all students toward successful completion of their degree. In terms of gatekeeping, a