Enrollment Drops of Gerontology
February 17, 2005 1:12 AM
While the American Association of Retired People (AARP) recently launched a program joining higher education institutions to help encourage the growth of gerontology, the study of aging, the SF State’s gerontology department’s enrollment is slowly shrinking due to the program’s suspension.
Admissions to the department have been closed for two semesters while the program restructures and reorganizes its curriculum with the assistance of a special task force.
As of yet the department does not know when it will reopen, said Program Director Anabel Pelham.
“While we are trying to be hopeful and trust that the new program will be an exciting new offering, this closure of admissions does have a negative effect on morale, on our good reputation in the community, employers seeking staff, and for students wishing to get on with their education and realizes,” Pelham said.
The department operates under the College of Health and Human Services.
Last April former HSS dean Don Zingale recommended the programs discontinuance due to a $23 million budget deficit at SF State.
“When comparing the program with other graduate programs it was small, but the university did not calculate that it was the largest in the CSU system,” said Pelham. Pelham said the university is not going to save anything if the program is cut.
“The tenure faculty will be reassigned to different areas,” she said. “The damage will be huge and the savings will be microscopic.”
Some gerontology students agree that the program’s possible demise has serious consequences. “There are serious and obvious ramifications that gerontology will affect social security,” said gerontology graduate student Rafael Gonzalez Hidalgo. “San Jose State University has already cut their gerontology department.
“We need more people in the field because more and more people are living longer - and they need to know how to stay healthy, mentally and physically," said Gonzalez Hidalgo.
Last September, faculty from the gerontology department recommended to temporarily suspend the program instead of discontinuing it. Pelham said one of the reasons for suspension was the workload on faculty. The department has three tenured professors and two lecturers this semester. Since the programs suspension, 90 graduate students were enrolled in the program, according to Pelham.
“It is frustrating and difficult - it’s like giving birth to a new program,” she said. “But the plus side is what’s going to (emerge) on the other side is going to be a strong interdisciplinary program.”
“We don't know what will happen next semester, which will represent the third semester (that) admissions to the program (have) been closed,” said Pelham.
“We are going to have an influx of Baby Boomers retiring over the next 20 years," said Todd Keitz, SF State gerontology lecturer. “Gerontology is incredibly important to learning how to improve the quality of life for aging Americans, specifically because we are living longer.”
Pelham said the job market for the profession is growing at a stable rate.
“For students this is an opportunity in health and human service careers,” she said “There are many diverse career opportunities in this field. For example, just today another employer called this office with an opening for a half time position as geriatric care manager. This is just one example and many more jobs in the field are announced via a variety of mechanisms.”
“It is very fortunate for me that all of my classes were available this semester,” he said. “I know a lot of people who just started the program who have had to suffer because a certain class was cut or there were no available seats."
“In my case the classes and space was available. It's the newer students who have more of the problems.”
Gonzalez Hidalgo feels students will not be able to explore and devlop within their field of concentration if the program remains suspended. “It's a growing field,” Hidalgo said. “It's not a very smart thing to (cut or suspend the department). It shows a tremendous lack of vision to be making any cuts at all. They should be increasing the program.”
Pelham added: “It’s really important that the community believes that the program is not being discontinued. Students and employers are waiting to get this program back and running.”
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