CAPS to Help About 20 Percent More Students This Year
After receiving $300,000 extra in funding at the beginning of this academic year, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is on track to help about 20 percent more students than in previous years.
In total, CAPS expects to assist 4,000 students this academic year, Director Dennis Heitzmann said.
After it was allocated the extra funds, CAPS hired five extra counselors — about a 20 percent increase in staff — and opened a new office in downtown State College, located at 248 E. Calder Way. These additions helped CAPS start to solve its two main issues: space and staffing.
The new space is home to six CAPS staff members. Students who are seeking services at CAPS still have their initial meeting at the office located in the University Health Services Building, but may be assigned to the downtown location for additional meetings.
Since the new office opened at the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year, students seem to like the downtown location because of its location near off-campus housing, Heitzmann said, but CAPS is searching for an on-campus location for its satellite office since it is currently paying to rent the space for the downtown office.
With the extra funding and additional counselors, CAPS hasn’t eliminated its waiting list for appointments, but Heitzmann said that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“It’s almost like there was a second level of students waiting who might have been discouraged in the past from even coming in because of waiting lists and so forth,” he said. “Now that there is more availability, it’s almost like the portals been opened and students are knocking on the door and we’re able to serve more students because of it.”
Though the additional funding is a step in the right direction for CAPS, Heitzmann said it isn’t the end of the process. The service, which helps students with problems ranging from homesickness to major psychiatric diseases, is still looking to increase its staffing to “acceptable levels.”
The International Association of Counseling Services suggests that the university’s ratio of professional clinical service providers to students should be about 1 to every 1,500 students, Heitzmann said. Right now, CAPS has about 23 full time staff members to service the 46,600 students on campus — a ratio of about 1 counselor to every 2,026 students.
Heitzmann said he understands the university has important places to spend its money, but he and CAPS believe that their service is integral to make sure students get the most out of their time at Penn State.
“We’re here to provide students with the best opportunity to get all that they are capable of getting from their academic experience,” he said. “If they are not emotionally stable and resilient, they cannot expect to get that from their educational experience.”