Striving to Align with the CAS Standards: Graduate Preparatory Programs in Higher Education & Student Affairs

Daniel W Calhoun, Steven Tolman, Kaylee M. King
Journal for the Study of Postsecondary and Tertiary Education  •  Volume 5  •  2020  •  pp. 001-016

This study examined Higher Education/Student Affairs (HE/SA) programs’ curriculum alignment with the CAS Standards.

HE/SA programs have a limited number of credit hours (27-65) and must structure their curriculum within the confines. The CAS Standards guides HE/SA programs and recommends this curriculum include a focus on six content areas.

A quantitative study that examined the curriculum of the HE/SA programs in the United States (n = 230) and their offering of exclusive courses aligning with the six content areas recommended by the CAS Standards.

This study is the first to broadly examine the curriculum of the collective HE/SA programs in the United States. It can serve as a catalyst to encourage further research and scholarly discussion around the curriculum of HE/SA programs and the professional preparation of higher education administrators.

Key findings included that of the six content areas, History and Counseling were the areas least likely to be offered in HE/SA programs (48% and 41%, respectively) compared to 82% and above for the other four areas. Evidence suggests that program offerings of 36-39 credit hours may be the “sweet spot” in balancing credit hours with their ability to meet CAS Standards.

There is a need for HE/SA faculty and practitioners to communicate where HE/SA programs fell short meeting the CAS Standards so that practitioners can continue in the professional development of these young practitioners. This “handoff” between faculty and practitioners will further strengthen the field of student affairs.

The findings of this study illuminate the important future research question as to whether there is a difference in the academic preparedness (perceived and/or actual) of graduates who attend programs that are more closely aligned with the CAS Standards?

Recognizing the importance that student affairs professionals have on student development (in-and-out of the classroom), this study challenges educators and practitioners to ensure they are adequately developing the next generation of college administrative leaders.

Examination of the curriculum alignment in the future once the CAS Standards for Graduate Preparatory Programs are revised

higher education programs, student affairs programs, graduate preparatory programs, professional preparation, student affairs, professional development
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