Canisius College prepping for university status
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 16, 2012 02:11
Two Canisius faculty members brought a thick stack of documents to a meeting with officials from the New York State Department of Education in Albany this week to discuss the progress of what is on course to become Canisius’ first-ever doctoral program, in counselor education.
The addition of a doctoral program is the first official step for Canisius in a process years in the making: transitioning from a college to university.
“It went really well,” said Dr. James Donnelly, an adjunct professor and leader in the counseling department who made the cross-state trip along with Dr. Jerome Neuner, the Vice President for Academic Affairs. “We hope to have our first class next fall.”
Officially becoming a university is not something any current students will be around to see, but it is a goal on Canisius’ long-term to-do list -- to be taken care of in the next decade or so.
“So long as we can satisfy New York state requirements in a way that doesn’t create a huge issue for us in our budget, I want to explore that,” Canisius President John Hurley told The Griffin. “So we are.”
Why become a university?
“It’s less of an ego trip about prestige in the domestic market and more about positioning us for international recruitment,” Hurley said.
“College” and “university” are virtually interchangeable in the United States. But in other countries, a “college” means more of what Americans know as a community college or trade school, while only a “university” denotes higher learning. It’s a struggle to get the message across to prospective students.
“When you’re in any other country in the world, including Canada, students assume we’re not a four-year institution,” Dean of Admissions Donna Shaffner said. “It’s a very competitive marketplace. Parents especially are looking for the best spot for their children. In China, we’re talking about parents having one child, so this is their one shot and they want them to go to the best institution possible.”
Recruiting internationally is difficult enough on a level playing field. But while other universities are spending their precious minutes with students selling them on how great their programs are, colleges like Canisius need to spend the time to simply convey that they’re a four-year institution as well.
“Immediately, institutions that have ‘college’ behind them are at a disadvantage,” Shaffner said.
Even in neighboring Canada, the word “college” makes prospective students uneasy.
“We manage to overcome it by having enough people close to the border who know us, but it’s compromised,” Hurley said. “We are constantly explaining that we really are a university.”
Shaffner said becoming a university would “totally change” what Canisius could do in the international market. Admissions representatives from Saint Peter’s University and Mercyhurst University, two colleges that recently made the jump, did not respond to emails.
“A lot of people don’t realize how critical it is,” Shaffner said. “It’s huge. I’ve gone over to China and talked to families. The moment they hear the word ‘college,’ they walk away.”
How to become a university
To become a university, Canisius must first become a doctoral degree-granting institution. New York state requires having three doctoral programs, which Hurley said would be “natural extensions of what we’re doing well on a graduate level.” He said Canisius already meets the other requirements.
“We have a very strong master’s program here [in counselor education] and we’ve got the facility in place,” Hurley said. “We think that’s a natural fit.”
Now that Canisius has met with state officials, the next step is an external review, which Donnelly hopes can start as soon as January.
The review, in Donnelly’s words, involves “very well-known experts” coming to campus and reviewing all the documents and faculty in the program. The experts will then write a report evaluating Canisius’ plan – possibly listing areas Canisius needs to improve. Canisius will respond to the evaluation, and then the state will look at all of the documents and decide whether to give the program the go-ahead or to give more feedback on things to improve.
“With it being our first program, they’re going to be very careful,” Donnelly said. “But we think it’s still realistic to get the program launched in late spring so we can have an admissions process and get started next fall.”
He expects the program to have about seven students in its first class, including both students going full time and professionals already in the field working part time toward a higher degree. The University at Buffalo is the only other school in the area that offers a doctorate program in counselor education.