Truman adds online grad programs

UCS Lobby
A picture of the University Counseling Services office. Students approved an increase in the student health fee to increase mental health services on campus. (Photo by Nicolas Telep)

Truman State University plans to add two online graduate degree programs, which will be the first completely online degrees the University offers.

The new programs — Master of Arts in Counseling: Mental Health Counseling and Master of Arts in Counseling: School Counseling — will be set up in six eight-week blocks built around the academic year. The course work will overlap between degree programs and offer separate courses specific to each degree.

“We think there is definitely a need,” Associate Provost Kevin Minch said. “There’s a shortage of qualified counselors, particularly in the mental health field in the country. If you look at projected growth and recent growth in both degrees being offered in mental health and also job advertisements for that field, it’s going way up.”

The new programs are part of an effort to increase enrollment and generate revenue by appealing to graduate students through the online courses, as many adult learner students don’t have the ability to physically relocate to Kirksville.

There is more national need for adult-learners and graduate students who happen to already be in the workplace looking to change careers or add skill sets, Minch said.

Minch said Truman worked with an external company to appeal to the adult learner. The University found when taking online courses, the adult learner prefers to take one or two courses at a time, so their attention is very focused on one experience for a shorter timespan.

“You can start pretty much at any time of the year,” Minch said. “You can do one course at a time and get finished at about the same pace as you would get finished if you were doing a regular, semester-based degree.”

Existing Truman faculty will teach the new programs, but the University is expected to hire new faculty as well. As a requirement for accreditation, the University will need to hire full-time counseling faculty dedicated to the programs.

Truman will partner with A.T. Still University because it has experience developing online health programs. Jeanne Harding, Truman interim dean of health sciences and education, said this is a partnership Truman will continue to build upon.

“We can learn from the expertise [ATSU] have, they can learn from the skills and pieces we have to offer, and I really think that makes it a very distinctive program,” Harding said.

Harding said, there is support for the new programs as well as a need to better the community. Truman looks to implement the new programs by January 2019.