New student affairs graduate certificate the first of its kind in the country

Man leading discussion group of adults and teensA new graduate certificate offered by the Student Affairs in Higher Education program in Colorado State University’s School of Education provides a five-class, online course of study designed for those working in pre-college preparation access programs, post secondary student opportunity programs, student support positions, and more.

Developing real-world experience

Developed by Andrea Reeve and Oscar Felix, two instructors in the SAHE program, the Post Secondary Access and Success Programs certificate is delivered through CSU Online. It includes foundational and specialized courses that focus on an intentional and formal approach. The certificate is designed to educate those who want to help first-generation, low-income, and other diverse or nontraditional students get into post secondary education.

The certificate is divided into two separate tracks focused on either precollegiate programs or post secondary programs. Each track requires foundational courses focusing on:

  • Student Development Theory
  • Organizational Behavior and Campus Ecology
  • Foundations of College Opportunity Programs

Once students have completed the foundational courses, they can move onto courses that focus on pre-college or post secondary access and success.

“The foundation courses provide an opportunity for students to look at programs and the design of programs, to equip them with an overall introduction to college access and success programs,” said Reeve. “After students take their first nine core credits, they take another six credits either in the pre-college or post secondary tracks. Overall, we are looking at programs that serve students who have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education.”

The credits earned through the certificate can be applied to the master’s degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education at CSU.

Adding to a growing field

Teacher talks with studentsAlthough there are several post secondary access and success programs arising nationally, formal education around them is scarce.

“We’re excited about it,” said Felix. “This is the first certificate that focuses on post secondary college access and success in the country. It has been a growing field for many decades. We know that first-generation, low-income, and diverse students benefit from an intentional approach and guidance about getting into college and succeeding in college. But there hasn’t been any formal education about it. You can go to conferences and workshops and seminars, but there are no specialized degrees. It’s a growing field, and we feel that the certificate will fill a gap for a lot of professionals who want to do this work and could benefit from formal instruction.”

The creation of the certificate was inspired by the Council for Opportunity in Education to provide formal training in college access and success. Felix and Reeve worked with COE, as well as CSU, to determine whether or not there was a need for a program. As they realized there was a need, the program was adopted and evolved into a CSU effort.

“We have to give credit to the Council for Opportunity in Education for introducing the idea of a for-credit college program that students could take,” said Reeve. “It started with them in 2014 when they began to think about an affiliation with CSU. It then evolved into this graduate certificate program, but it began with the question of getting credit courses for people who are interested in or are working in the college access or college success area.”

To the future

Tutor who presents as female helps student who presents as male in a libraryLooking forward, Felix and Reeve hope that the Post Secondary Access and Success Programs certificate will reach national and international student affairs practitioners.

“It is online, so it can be offered anywhere in the world,” said Felix. “If more and more countries are thinking about college access and success for their own citizens, then this could be an option. We also hope that it reaches all over the United States for all the new college access programs that are popping up. We believe that earning our certificate will make people better practitioners and, in turn, provide better services to students that will lead to higher graduation rates.”

As the field of college access continues to grow, the Post Secondary Access and Success Programs certificate will continue to develop and allow students to engage in relevant classes.

“We could add in courses about management for people who need to know more about managing a program, a budget, staff, or even relationships in an institution,” said Reeve. “Someone mentioned to me that they’re interested in grant writing, since a lot of college access programs are run by grants. So, as the certificate develops and we get it up to speed, the certificate program could provide more courses.”

COE will offer one scholarship for partial tuition every year. More information on the Post Secondary Access and Success Programs certificate program and COE scholarship may be found on the CSU Online website.

The School of Education is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.