College of Education starts new online master’s in school counseling program

College of Education hopes to increase accessibility for prospective students with the program.

In order to expand accessibility to the program, the College of Education created an online format for its master’s degree in school counseling. The school hopes the program will allow students who are too busy to take in-person classes a way for them to take part in the school.

According to the American School Counselor Association, Missouri has a student-to-counselor ratio of 347 to 1. However, the Missouri State Board of Education aims to lower this ratio to a maximum of 250 students to 1 counselor. With this new need of counselors in Missouri, the state could see an increase in job openings in school counselors.

Christopher Slaten, associate professor and director of the program, hopes it will increase accessibility and address a “shortage” of counselors.

Slaten said that after identifying a need for counselors within the state, the best solution was to create a program that would be accessible to those who aren’t near a school or can’t go to in person classes because of a job.

Slaten and the College of Education plan to give prospective students a similar education to what they would have in person.

“As far as the information that a student would obtain, it’s the same,” Slaten said. “We offer the same number of credit hours, essentially the same courses. The difference is simply the format.”

Slaten says the program is turning out to be pretty popular, as hundreds of prospective students have already asked for more information about it.

“So far we’ve had several hundred inquiries for the program, already have had over 50 people complete full applications even though the deadline is not until July,” Slaten said. “It may end up being a program that turns into something that’s quite large and then we’re able to help folks from across the country, not just in Missouri.”

Slaten is passionate about being able to train these future workers and is glad to see the good this program will do.

“It has been a passion of mine to train and develop professionals to work in schools to help kids with their mental health needs. I see this program — this format online — as an opportunity to train more folks who do that work. I’m excited about the opportunity to grow the profession, and be able to train a lot more folks online than we could do in person.”

Rene’ Yoesel is the director of school counseling for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and has expressed excitement over the new program.

“We are excited about the University of Missouri’s online master’s program,” Yoesel said. “It will be a great opportunity for school counseling students to balance life’s demands along with a rigorous graduate program. The counselor education program at MU has always been rigorous and relevant and we expect no less from the online program.”

Yoesel believes that the program, although online, can be just as good as the in-person alternative.

“With modern technology and a fast-paced society, I believe online college programs will offer major benefits of flexibility and convenience that many people will need in order to complete an advanced degree,” Yoesel said. “Students with self-discipline and a commitment to learning will excel with the opportunity to complete coursework online.”

Susan Perkins, elementary school counseling coordinator for Columbia Public Schools, also agrees that the program can help students. She said the benefit to a lower student to counselor ratio.

“The lower the [student-to-counselor] ratio, the more time available to spend with students, supporting their social, emotional and academic needs,” Perkins said.

Perkins believes this program will have a positive impact in the field of school counseling.

“Providing opportunity for a completely online program really increases the access and, hopefully, with that we will be able to fill the gap [of counselors],” Perkins said.

Edited by Lucy Caile | lcaile@themaneater.com

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