By Mauro Whiteman, Jack Fitzpatrick and Connor Radnovich
The Walter Cronkite School’s combined degree program, ASU’s only concurrent bachelor’s and master’s program and one of the only journalism programs of its kind nationally, is being discontinued following a review of the program by Dean of the Graduate School Maria Allison, ASU administrators said.
The discontinuation will take effect in fall 2013. Students currently enrolled in the program and those who enroll during this school year will be allowed to complete it, said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School and vice provost for the Downtown campus.
Callahan said the program as he structured it when he came to ASU in 2005 had one flaw: Students received both degrees at the same time. As the program developed, it “became inconsistent with university academic policy and financial policies,” University Provost and Executive Vice President Elizabeth Capaldi said in an emailed statement.
Currently, the university has several accelerated master’s programs in which students complete their undergraduate degree prior to their graduate degree but begin graduate coursework in the final semesters of their undergraduate program, Capaldi said in the email.
Despite the discontinuation of the current program, Callahan said he has “complete confidence” that a joint degree program of some kind will be brought back to the Cronkite School.
Callahan said he is working to bring the program back with some minor changes. Students would still take 144 total credits in the same amount of time, but they would receive undergraduate degrees before graduate degrees.
“My hope is the only real change would be when you get your undergraduate degree,” Callahan said.
In the meantime, the school is without one of its top recruiting tools for honors journalism students.
Jill Johnson, a program manager for Barrett, the Honors College, at the Downtown campus, said she emphasized the program to potential students in the past.
“When recruiting in the past, we talked specifically about the … program,” she said. “It was a highlight of the recruiting session.”
Mark Jacobs, dean of the honors college, said he didn’t initially realize how important the program would be to the school. But since the program went into effect, he said he has heard about it regularly from parents and students at Barrett recruiting dinners.
“I would say that each year, at least 10 to 15 comment and ask about the four-year bachelor’s/master’s program in journalism,” Jacobs said. “So we know that this is a really strong attraction.”
Similar programs at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and the University of Arizona School of Journalism are branded as accelerated master’s programs, rather than concurrent degree programs, and neither school labels its program as four-year, a designation that Callahan said he hopes to keep if he can reinstate the program.
“If we can keep it at 144 credits … you can still do it in four years, even if you don’t come in with a lot of AP credits,” Callahan said.
The changes may bring an additional cost to the combined degree program, as Callahan said he believes students in the program would have to pay graduate tuition after they receive their undergraduate degree. However, he said he does not believe they would have to pay graduate tuition prior to receiving their undergraduate degree, even if they take overlapping undergraduate and graduate classes.
Students reported the Cronkite School’s website no longer had a page devoted to the combined degree program in the early days of the summer. However, the website for Barrett, the Honors College, still has a brief summary of the former program that links to the redacted webpage.
Callahan said his proposal for reinstating the program will have to go before Allison, the graduate-school dean, before he will know the time frame for bringing it back, but he remained hopeful that the program could be back in time for fall recruiting.
“Once I get with her, and I hope that will be shortly, I am confident we will have a new plan in place in short order and not miss a beat (considering we are continuing under the current configuration for all incoming freshmen this year, and I hope to have the new plan in place shortly for the next freshmen recruitment class, so we wouldn’t miss anything),” Callahan said in an email.
Journalism sophomore Will Argeros said he hadn’t heard about the program or even thought about getting a master’s degree until he got to ASU last year. But he said Johnson convinced him to do it and that the financial benefits were a big draw.
“My fourth year will be covered, which is huge,” he said. “If I had done grad work later, it would not have been covered. It would have been extra, and college is pricey as it is.”
Argeros said that if he had pursued a master’s degree without the combined program, he may not have stayed at Cronkite. He added that even though he wasn’t recruited on the premise of the combined program, he thought it would have an impact on recruiting for new honors journalism students.
“It’s a huge point to sell people on, and they could lose a lot of students who already have the drive to do a master’s program and would see that as a bonus,” he said.
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Editor’s note: Mauro Whiteman, Jack Fitzpatrick and Connor Radnovich are enrolled in the Cronkite School’s combined bachelor’s/master’s program.