A program with a storied history at Springfield College is being reexamined.
Youth Development, a major and idea that has been a part of the fabric of the college since its early days, is taking a timeout following years of low enrollment.
The program is not going to cease to exist, but will just currently not be accepting incoming students. Students currently enrolled in the program will still be able to graduate with their degree in youth development
“It was a long, hard decision. And I think it was late fall when we finally said, ‘okay, we need to call a timeout here,’ which is what a moratorium is,” said Anne Herzog, the Dean of the School of Arts, Sciences and Professional Studies. “A moratorium is not cancelation or termination of the program. It is saying we will stop admitting new students so we can see if there is some way to revise the curriculum, revise the structure of the program so that it can still survive.”
Enrollment has routinely been an issue for the program. In the past five years, the highest incoming enrollment for an incoming class was five. There are currently 20 students in the program across all four years, with one freshman, six sophomores, six juniors and seven seniors. It should be noted that multiple students per year transfer into the program from within the institution.
Despite the numbers, the impact the program had on the students was grand, and there was understandable disappointment once the news was delivered.
“I was pretty upset, and a lot of other people were too,” said sophomore youth development major Sammy Boisvert. “It’s a program [that’s] very involved with the community and it’s something everyone is very passionate about because you’re working with other people and having an impact on their life.”
Herzog said the one issue is that high school students may not be getting enough information about the program. Naviance, the software schools use to help students research colleges and majors, does not even list youth development under majors.
“Youth development does not appear on that list,” Herzog said. “Students who might think, ‘wow what’s youth development,’ or ‘I might like to look into this,’ [cannot] find it there.”
While this timeout is taking place, the school will be looking at ways to improve the program instead of simply letting it sit on the shelf. There is no estimated timetable as to when further direction of the program will be announced.
“The problem is you can’t offer an Intro to Youth Development with three or four students coming in their first semester, or in the second semester and have a class that’s adequately enrolled,” said Herzog. “So the result has been real challenging in terms of the workload, the faculty member who directs the program and making sure that the classes are sufficiently enrolled so that they are solid classes. At some point it is not educationally sound to be offering classes of three or four students.”
Ted France, a professor in the physical education department, has extensive history with youth development. A major contributor to The First Tee, France uses youth development in his day-to-day life, and remains optimistic that no matter what, due diligence will be done to make sure the future of the program is handled adequately.
“It’s good that there’s a moratorium and they didn’t just eliminate it,” he said. “I think the big piece now is how do you work with the students that are here and in that environment. It’s tough; it’s got to be really tough. You need to be sensitive to helping them”