Contact Us




The Arizona Daily Wildcat Online





News Sports Opinions Arts Classifieds

Thursday October 5, 2000

Football site
UA Survivor


Police Beat


Wildcat Alum?

AZ Student Media

KAMP Radio & TV


Special Ed, rehab and school psychology department has the largest UA grad student enrollment

By Mindy Jones

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Shortage of special ed teachers caused the increase of grad students

Data compiled by the Office of Graduate Studies listed the department of special education, rehabilitation and school psychology as the fastest-growing UA department during the past three years.

Larry Leslie, vice dean of the education college, attributes the growth of graduate students from 214 to 255 since the fall of 1997 to a variety of faculty efforts.

With the second-largest number of graduate students in any single department, the special education, rehabilitation and school psychology department consistently reports the highest inter-departmental ratings in research and teaching, Leslie said.

"They are a very active department," he said. "They have been very successful in obtaining training grants almost exclusively from the state and federal governments."

Lawrence Aleamoni, a professor and head of the department, said there is a tight link between the grants received by the university and the student support of the program.

"When I became dean in 1997, we were receiving $2.5 million in outside funds," Aleamoni said. "As of the end of last year we were bringing in $4.2 million and giving a third of that directly to the students."

Jane Erin, a professor focusing on visual impairment, cited the shortage of special education teachers in Arizona as the reason behind the increased enrollment.

"There is a tremendous need for teachers out there," Erin said. "School districts desperately need our faculty."

James Chalfant, a professor in the leadership and training sector, agreed that the need for teachers is a major contributing factor to the increase of graduate students at the UA.

"Many people in education are retiring," Chalfant said. "The need in this field is great and we are looking to supply that need with educated teachers."

The faculty works with the Arizona Department of Education and school districts throughout the Phoenix and Tucson areas to determine the needs of both the students and teachers.

"The amount of students considered by the public school system to have disabilities has gone up," Leslie said. "Obviously this is going to create a high demand for teachers with this specialty."

Although graduate students are drawn to the UA for its notoriety and the availability of students to work directly with school districts, Chalfant said their recruiting efforts have increased dramatically.

"Most departments have created specific recruiting plans," Chalfant said. "We are deliberately trying to recruit culturally and linguistically different students."

During the recruiting process, the departments are able to offer stipends to students which cover all or partial tuition and housing, Erin said.

Tami Levinson, a graduate student focusing on the visually impaired, said there are not many programs like the UA's in the state.

"There are only a handful of programs like this one, and the UA has one of them," Levinson said. "It is very unique in the fact that you can get certified as a teacher for students with disabilities such as the visually impaired."

The university is also a convenient choice for Arizona residents, Levinson said.

The UA department is attempting to increase its accessibility and enrollment numbers through the implementation of online and off-campus programs.

Erin said departments, specifically the visual impairment sector, offer Internet courses where non-residents can take advantage of distant education.

Amos Sales, a professor and coordinator of the rehabilitation area, said that his department has been very active in off-campus education, funded through state and federal grants.

"We can explain the increase in our numbers through the increase of education programs available in the Phoenix metropolitan area," Sales said.

Leslie said the graduate program has done well within the department.

"The department has a lot to be proud of," he said. "Everyone in every department pulls their own weight and is highly productive."