Psychology graduate program ceasing – perhaps only temporarily

Castleton State College’s nationally known forensic graduate program is being temporarily shut down to incoming students because students apparently are going elsewhere. Students currently enrolled in the graduate program will be able to finish their education next year without a hitch, but the future of the program is in limbo.

The psychology department is hoping to open a revamped graduate program in the fall of 2007 with two areas of concentration, one in forensics and one in education. This would change from the current forensic-only option.

The change in concentrations is due to “increasing competition of other colleges and universities” psychology Professor Terry Bergen said.

“[The proposed change] will reduce numbers and keep a strong scientific research program with the top people in educational and forensic psychology,” psychology professor John Klein said. “That’s the idea.”

With increasing tuition costs for Castleton’s graduate program, students have begun to opt for other forensic psychology graduate schools becoming more abundant and that offer more financial aid, department officials said

Castleton is also having a hard time attracting many “highly qualified professors” for the 30-student class, Klein said. With the proposed curriculum change, there will be an 18- to 20-student forensic psychology program as well as an 18- to 20-student program for educational psychology.

“Small elite graduate programs are good for small colleges like Castleton,” Klein said.

The proposed program has been submitted to the faculty committee that will need to approve of the curriculum before sending it to the faculty assembly and the board of trustees. The psychology department should know in the next couple of months if the program curriculum is approved or not.

If it isn’t approved, the psychology graduate program would cease. But Klein said department officials are “cautiously optimistic” that won’t be the case.

Despite fear among undergraduate forensic psychology majors, Klein said the changes won’t impact the undergraduate program.

But the fear may be rooted, if not warranted.

With forensic psychology program creator Curt Bartol retired and current forensic psychology Professor Brenda Russell out sick this year, undergraduate students have been taking classes from professors in other disciplines, not forensic psychology.

“The program is going down,” one undergraduate forensic psychology student said. “I was coming here to see if I like forensic psychology, but I can’t find if I like it here.

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