College sees growth in human services

by T. J. Guese

Human Services worker with homeless girl
Within the growing Online Campus, one program is outpacing the others: human services. It began in 2006 as a two-year program with the Online Campus; then in 2008 the college started offering a bachelor's degree in the field. Now every course in the catalog is offered online, which means students can earn a degree in human services without ever taking an in-seat course.

The growth is evident when looking at registration. For the last session which ended in May 2009, human services offered six sections of the introduction course and 28 sections total. The online program only offered 10 sections of human services courses when it started. Although the in-seat program has grown as well, it is not growing at nearly the same pace.

Human Services instructor Michael Perkins with student
When comparing the number of students in one in-seat class to that of one online session, Mike Perkins, a human services instructor, said, "It would take me two and a half academic years to teach what we are teaching in one session of online." The goal originally, according to Perkins, was to offer the minor online and phase in the rest of the program over time.

The number of students majoring in human services online has increased. In the January 2008 session, 39 students sought an associate degree while six sought a bachelor's. As of the January 2009 session, 60 students were seeking an associate degree and 71 a bachelor's. Compare this growth to other programs, such as sociology, which gained five bachelor's students in the same period, or history with a gain of 40 bachelor's students.

In Perkins' opinion, the program has grown because students, especially older ones, want to help others, and job opportunities within the field are rich.

Kaley Sarmento, an online sophomore psychology and human services major, said: "I love the type of classes offered like Mental Health and Substance Abuse. These classes give me information that is directly related to the kinds of fields I want to work in." Sarmento says she started taking online classes because her campus did not offer courses in human services. She adds she would like to see more direct involvement with internship and volunteer opportunities.

Tabitha Haynes, a senior and online psychology major, says: "I like the human services field because it gives me insight in things that could benefit me in the future. An example would be case management. It works hand-in-hand when dealing with clients. I have also learned so much about dealing with individuals as well as working with families and communities."

Growth in the human services program has been so rapid that plans for future development are still being discussed. Perkins says that while the idea of a master's degree has been debated, it is all about what students need to further their goals, and it would be a big step for the college.

This article originally appeared in the Columbian, the college's student paper.