The University of Mary Washington Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Program has been the first college or university in Virginia to decrease their program’s funding and have a significant decrease in employment in the past five years, according to the 2010-2011 CAPS Annual Report.
Tevya Zukor, previous director of the CAPS program, recently left the UMW CAPS program to become the Director of the Counseling Center at the University of Pittsburgh.
For the past few years, there have been four full-time psychologists working at the UMW program. However, this summer, CAPS lost Cynthia Holshoe, a staff counselor.
“We lost what I would say is the most valued and skilled staff member, so it was a significant loss and it was hard to replace someone like that. It’s difficult because of her skill and the way she was able to engage with students,” Zukor said.
CAPS has been searching to hire a new full-time employee to make up for this loss, which will help cover the previous budget loss. The new employee would be working more hours, but paid less than the previous employee. According to the Board of Visitors, the job search was scheduled to close on Sept. 17. As of now, one of the two remaining counselors will be on maternity leave before November.
Until a new director is hired, Doug Searcy will be the acting director of CAPS, according to the UMW website.
Searcy holds a bachelor’s degree in communications, public relations and English, a master’s degree in education, and a doctor of philosophy in administration and instruction, but has no previous certification in psychological counseling, according to the university website.
He is also vice president of student affairs and has had eight years of experience supervising counseling centers.
UMW is in the process of finding a permanent director to head CAPS along with an additional staff counselor.
According to International Association of Counseling Services (IACS) trends and guidelines, the CAPS program does not currently meet professional standards of the recommended student to staff ratio being 1,000 to one.
The ratio reported in the CAPS 2010-2011 report for UMW was one staff member for every 1,611 undergraduate and graduate students.
“Two years ago Student Affairs was asked to contribute to the University budget cuts by reducing our operating budget by $266,000,” said Searcy. “At the same time there was a resignation by the Associate Vice President and CAPS Director, whose salary was $108,000.”
The position was eventually frozen to help with the budget, according to Searcy.
To compensate for the lack of funding and faculty, CAPS has made a few changes to their program, such as speeding up wait time and adding a faculty in residence, Christopher Kilmartin. His role is to work in the educational aspects of CAPS and see students on a limited basis.
“I would say that, unfortunately, just about every non-academic department at the university has suffered from budget reductions due to the state of the economy and reduction in state funding,” said President Rick Hurley. “I am, however, assured that when we fill any CAPS vacancies, we will be staffed at a level to satisfactorily meet the needs of our campus.”
The CAPS program at UMW is the only counseling center in Virginia that has reduced staffing since the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, while other universities have increased staff by at least one full-time employee, according to the UMW CAPS Annual Report.
Compared to peer universities (schools with enrollment under 10,000), UMW is falling behind six of the eight schools for full-time employees. The university’s current lack of staffing was part of what led to this ranking. They plan to address this problem with the new staff member that will be hired to replace Holshoe.
“The University feels it is adequately staffed,” said Rick Pearce, vice president for administration and finance.
In comparison, Christopher Newport University, around the same size as UMW, has seven full time employees, according to their Executive Director of Counseling and Health Services Bill Ritchey.
Marymount University, on the other hand, has three full-time employees and one part-time employee. Their annual budget given to the center by the university is considered “adequately funded” according to Peggy Axelrod, director of Budget and Risk Management at Marymount. They declined further comment.
In 2011, the College of William and Mary had 14 full-time employees, according to the UMW CAPS Annual Report.
According to the school website, CAPS offers counseling to students in need of services such as anxiety, depression, adjustment and relationships.
“The professionals working with CAPS have the best interest of students at heart,’ said Searcy. “They are creative and use all available resources to maximize services and support students at the highest level. Program quality and services have continued to expand even through transition.”
According to Zukor, CAPS is also well-known for their training program. Graduate students from all different universities around the state come and work with the staff members at UMW. The program is to be increased by 300 percent this year and continue to grow in the future. The interns collect over 40 hours a week, taking as much of a role as a full-time employee, according to Zukor.
According to both Zukor and Searcy, another way that CAPS makes up for its decrease in staffing is group therapy.
They offer three different group therapy sessions that meet together. CAPS claims that group therapy is just as, if not more effective than one-on-one personal sessions. UMW CAPS is the first Virginia university program to offer a transgender and gender identity group for all students that begin in the fall every year, according to Zukor.
“I think our role as a mental health provider and safety protection highlights the importance of our work,” said Zukor. “I would always be concerned that cutting resources at CAPS is problematic. With the amount of difficult and significant situations, I think the university is well aware and they are passionate about wanting to make sure we stay funded.”