Speech pathology program at UH loses DOE funding


POSTED: Thursday, March 12, 2009

The University of Hawaii's speech pathology and audiology program, which recently received five-year accreditation, has lost funding from the state Department of Education.

An agreement between the public schools and the UH department of communication science and disorders started under the Felix consent decree to address a shortage of licensed speech pathologists to work with students with speech and language disabilities, said Dorothy Craven, interim chairwoman of the department in the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Department of Education spokeswoman Sandra Goya said the department notified the medical school program in October it could no longer continue funding the agreement.

The funding supports salaries for 4 1/2 positions involving eight people, some working part time, as well as student stipends and supplies, Craven said.

The Department of Education said it planned to phase out the agreement by June 30 with a final payment of $750,000, including $500,000 for 2007-08 and $250,000 for 2008-09, Goya said.

Under the agreement, scholarships of $8,792 per semester were available for 25 students who were required to work two years in Hawaii's public schools after graduating or repay the money.

However, the number of graduates has not met expectations of 25 per year, Goya said. Last year, for example, there were three graduates, and in 2007 there was one, she said.

Craven said three graduated in December, and she expects eight to graduate in the spring.

The program encountered many difficulties in recent years, with divided medical services on the Manoa campus and mold in its clinical facility, forcing the faculty and students to relocate.

The department chairman also resigned suddenly last fall, and Craven, who retired in 1998 after 28 years in the program, returned in August as interim chairwoman to help obtain accreditation. A search is under way for a permanent chairman.

Accreditation is important because graduates, besides a master's degree, must take a national exam and obtain a certificate of clinical competence to obtain a job, Craven said. Most UH students far exceed the required score, she said, noting only one student in five years did not pass it the first time.

She said the program now has 89 students, including graduates and undergraduates, and seven faculty positions will remain after June 30.

“;I really love the program, and a lot of people out there are dependent on it,”; Craven said, explaining the faculty consults and works with hospitals, nursing homes, Easter Seals and other organizations, as well as many schools.

Students are trained to work with children and adults, providing public service under supervision for hearing and speech difficulties.

For example, Craven noted a “;small but amazing program”; on Saturday mornings conducted by students and supervised by Lisa Ing, a part-time employee affected by the funding loss, for severely impaired children on ventilators and wheelchairs. The program helps children who cannot speak naturally to use computers or other devices.

Craven said the department is looking at the summer and fall schedules to see whether faculty can be allocated to cover the vacant jobs.

“;The program will be smaller but we're not going to close. Students have been admitted to the program, and we have an obligation to see that they finish with proper credentials.”;