Drake University’s board of trustees voted to scrap its master’s program in Applied Behavior Analysis.
Drake’s ABA program began in 2017. It trains students to become board-certified behavior analysts, or BCBAs. They can continue to provide services to people with autism. Advocates say there is a shortage of these providers in the state.
Maria Valdovinos, a professor at Drake and director of the ABA master’s program, said despite being told by the administration that the program’s closure was due to low enrollment, 92 people applied to start the program at the fall.
“It’s just unfortunate that the administration didn’t believe in the program enough to grant us the grace to step back from the COVID pandemic and update the impact it may have had on our enrollment, and to see that there was a great need and a great potential,” she said.
More ABA services have been transferred to the state since 2017, and Valdovinos said graduates of the program have helped fill the need.
“There were 100% jobs for every one of our graduating students,” she said. “So finding a job, finding a job was not a challenge. The jobs are there. The market is there to support this profession. But, you know, it’s just not enough. We desperately need many more behavior analysts in the state.”
The program has received state support since its inception, in an effort to rid the program of financial support. According to a press release from Drake announcing the program, the goal was to fill a “critical labor need” in Iowa.
But did not meet its financial sustainability goals, according to the Iowa Department of Education.
Valdovinos said it will allow current students to complete their program, whether full-time or part-time.
The university did not respond to a request for comment.