Update: Oregon State University CSSA is now accepting applications for Fall 2015!
On a recent comment thread on the Student Affairs subreddit, someone asked for recommendations for higher education administration graduate programs. Enthusiastically, I recommended Oregon State University's College Student Services Administration (CSSA) "#SAgrad" program. My experience as a CSSA grad was very positive. The cohort-based model was everything I had hoped for in a student affairs masters program, blending theoretical knowledge and rigorous academics with practical experience. My graduate assistantship within Enrollment Management provided the perfect balance with my academic leanings. It was two years well spent as both a scholar and a student affairs practitioner.
This week I was added to a closed group for CSSA Alumni on Facebook. The group was full of comments about recent news that the CSSA program wouldn't be accepting new applicants for Fall 2015. A quick look at the OSU CSSA Twitter account confirmed that the program, almost 5 decades in tenure, would not have an incoming class for next year.
With great sadness CSSA will not be accepting applications for Fall 2015. The CSSA leadership team encourages interested individuals to...— OSU CSSA (@OSU_CSSA) October 28, 2014
... refer to the College of Education website for future program admissions updates http://t.co/ODYGrall2J— OSU CSSA (@OSU_CSSA) October 28, 2014
To say that those of us who graduated from OSU CSSA are disappointed would be a major understatement. The group on Facebook is full of comments from student affairs professionals who are in disbelief that a well-respected and internationally-known program like OSU CSSA is in such a sad state of affairs. What happened?
According to an email that was sent out to CSSA students, the dean of the College of Education (COE) at OSU informed the community that budgetary concerns were behind the "suspension of admissions." It should be noted that the email does state that courses for current CSSA students will continue to be provided.
Unfortunately, it's not surprising that CSSA is in trouble from a funding perspective. Student affairs practitioners are rarely wealthy. It's not like you can create a capital campaign and ask for millions of dollars to support a program when the entry-level salaries of new #SAgrads are paltry at best. Additionally, research within student affairs, at least historically, does not bring in massive amounts of funding dollars. Plus, it would appear that the focus of the COE at OSU is more focused on STEM issues within K-12. While this is obviously not a bad thing in a big picture context, it does dim the lights on a once bright CSSA program. It's a highly problematic situation in Corvallis.
When I was in graduate school at OSU in CSSA, there were more than 20 people in my cohort and most of us had graduate assistantships. A majority of us benefitted from our assistantships via tuition waivers and monthly stipends. The Division of Student Affairs (as well as other units on campus) received professional-level work as we made our way through our academic requirements. What will happen to the departments at Oregon State University that benefit from having skilled CSSA graduate assistants in their ranks? While the College of Education may see suspending CSSA as a cost-saving measure, what will happen to the overall state of work within the practitioner side of the house? Will OSU Student Affairs have to cut programs or find new funding streams to hire new staff? An insightful review of OSU CSSA was conducted in 2013 (revised in 2014) and it details what will be needed in order to bring CSSA back to full strength.
There are CSSA graduates working in a variety of departments at Oregon State University as well as all over the world. Here's hoping that halting admissions for 2015 is not the end of the CSSA program. In the meantime, here is NASPA's directory of higher education graduate programs.
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