Few Options for Argosy Graduate Students

In the aftermath of closure, Argosy University graduate and doctoral students have difficulty transferring to new universities.

March 22, 2019
 
Argosy University

The shuttering of Argosy University campuses across the country has sent students of the for-profit college chain scrambling for ways to complete their education and get their degrees.

Graduate and doctoral students, particularly those close to completing their programs, are finding it difficult to transfer to other institutions. Many universities won't accept graduate-level course credits earned at a different institution. Universities that will accept Argosy students may not transfer all the credits they've earned, which means they may have to retake courses at the new institutions.

Some Argosy students also have complained about receiving vague details and little information from Argosy and potential transfer institutions about their options.

“This has been stressful,” said Aretha Barnes, a student pursuing a doctorate in counseling psychology at Argosy’s campus in Tampa, Fla. “I’m two and a half years into my program. I’m scheduled to start my dissertation research this month. I’ve done all of my required courses. I just have three classes left. I’m basically at the end.”

Barnes, who expected to graduate in December 2020, said the only option she wants to pursue is transferring to another university’s graduate program. She said one institution, National Louis University in Chicago, recently visited the Tampa campus to reassure students that NLU was working on a plan to allow students to transfer to the private university's Florida branch. But Barnes said she still has questions.

"We were told that everything we currently have will transfer and I won't have to redo my residencies, because I've done those," she said. "Wherever we are in our program is where we're supposed to pick up, but I'm still waiting on confirmation for that."

Barnes said she expects to learn more about her program and her transfer status later this week from NLU. This isn't the first time she has been forced to find a new graduate program -- Barnes transferred to Argosy's Tampa campus last year after the university's Sarasota location shut down. But moving from one campus to another within the same institution was easier, Barnes said.

Students on the Tampa campus received emailed messages on March 8 from National Louis informing them that officials from both institutions were working to build a seamless transfer bridge for all Argosy Tampa students. Representatives from National Louis did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

If Barnes can’t transfer to another university, she’ll “lose everything,” she said. “All of the sacrifices and missing family dinners and not participating in activities and working full-time … every spare minute I have has gone into studying for this.”

Most of the approximately 460 students on Argosy’s Tampa campus were enrolled in a professional or doctoral degree program. The campus, which was one of about 20 Argosy locations that closed this month, had 332 graduate students in 2017, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Dream Center Education Holdings, Argosy’s parent company, and the university’s court-appointed receiver had been searching for a potential buyer. Earlier this month the Trump administration cut off Title IV student aid to the colleges after Argosy failed to make financial aid payments to students. Some Art Institutes campuses also were affected. In total, Dream Center campuses enrolled about 26,000 students.

Argosy has agreements with some institutions to accept transfers and maintains a list of universities on its website that will accept Argosy transfer students.

Transferring graduate credits can be a difficult process, because it involves fewer credits than the traditional 120 credits required for undergraduate degrees, said Melanie Gottlieb, deputy director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

“Institutions generally limit the number of transfer credits that they will take at the graduate level so as to ensure the coherence of the program of study towards the degree,” she said. “Ideally … an institution would make arrangements with another institution to teach-out their programs. This type of arrangement can smooth credit transfer for students but is unlikely to be seamless and does not always exist.”

Transferring from a professional program at one institution to another becomes even more complex in majors, such as law, psychology, medicine, nursing and education, that require programmatic accreditation and have additional requirements on course content and residency, she said.

Psychology educators across the nation lamented the loss of Argosy's program after learning the university would close.

“Argosy had large clinical training programs and [had] interns all over the country engaging in [American Psychological Association]-accredited internships,” Lisa Adams Somerlot, director of counseling and accountability at the University of West Georgia and a past president of the American College Counseling Association, said in an email. “This definitely affects college counseling centers.”

Those centers will have to consider how to continue an internship for a student who isn't enrolled in a clinical training program, or they'll have to end the internship, Adams Somerlot said.

"It is a terrible thing for doctoral students who now have no way to finish a very complex degree process," she said.

The APA, which accredited 10 psychology doctoral programs at Argosy campuses, said it would do what it could to help students transition to doctoral programs at other institutions. The association recently held a webinar to help Argosy students and alumni submit documentation of their credentials and internships to the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards and the National Register of Health Service Psychologists for free. The registries will keep academic records that can be submitted to state licensing boards and future employers on the behalf of students so students won't have to track down this information.

Nearly 800 Argosy psychology graduate students have contacted the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, or TCSPP, a nonprofit institution with 5,000 students and campuses in Chicago; Dallas; San Diego; Los Angeles; Irvine, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. It also offers courses online. TCSPP is one of five nonprofit institutions in the TCS Education System that is accepting transfers and offering teach-out programs for Argosy students.

“When we heard about Argosy’s challenges, our first concern was for their students,” TCSPP president Michele Nealon said. “The world of doctoral-level clinical psychology programs is quite small, so we’ve been very connected for a long time in the clinical psychology community. We’ve known the Argosy programs as being good colleagues and having good faculty and administrators over the years.”

Losing a psychology program such as the one at Argosy is also difficult because it is happening at a time when psychologists are in demand, she said.

Employment in the psychology field, which includes clinical, counseling and school and forensic psychology jobs, is projected to grow 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than the average growth of all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A significant number of Americans are in need of mental health counselors and psychologists -- one in five Americans has a mental health problem and one in 25 Americans has a chronic mental health problem, Nealon said.

“There is and will continue to be a tremendous need for well-trained, multiculturally competent psychologists,” she said. “This is and will continue to be a national issue to ensure that we are developing and training and positioning our future professionals in this space.”

Fourteen of TCSPP’s programs, including the clinical psychology doctoral degree, align with Argosy’s psychology programs, which should ease transfer challenges. Argosy students who live near one of TCSPP’s regional campuses will be able to continue their education, Nealon said.

“This is working very well right now for students [near] on-ground campuses,” she said. “Where this is a challenge is those students who are not in one of those geographic areas.”

Students such as Barnes, who don't live near TCSPP campuses, should be hearing from other colleges Argosy is partnering with, Nealon said.

“We are part of the solution but not the whole solution,” Nealon said. “I’m really optimistic that other colleges and universities will step up to support the thousands of students that have been impacted.”

Other universities across the country have, in fact, stepped up to help. Chaminade University of Honolulu, a Catholic institution, announced Monday that it would continue to run the clinical psychology doctoral program that was offered at Argosy University Hawaii. And Hawaii Pacific University, a private, nonprofit institution, is starting a doctoral psychology program and also plans to offer former Argosy students an opportunity to complete their courses.

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