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The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), outlines the primary mission of Social Work “is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty” (2008).1 The identity of the profession is somewhat vague at times, as the profession can fill many roles, work in a number of settings, and require licensure by states. The activities, competencies and behaviors for the profession, also require a critical component of self-knowledge to effectively work in the field.
1 Current undergraduate BSW programs laid the foundation in course work that will prepare the student for a wide range of community work as well as group work, and one-on-one practice. The BSW allows a student to pursue a Masters of Social Work for completion of licensure as a Certified Social Worker. Workforce demand, overview of comparable curriculum programs, and any available data going back at least 3 years will be included in this assessment.
Limitations: Much of the data was not available online and requests for information of the BSW program went unanswered. For this reason data is reported as recent as possible versus a 5 year history. Purpose of Analysis
The purpose of this analysis is to compare the University of Texas at El Paso Bachelor of Social Work Program (BSW), to three comparable universities in the region offering the same educational program. The goals of enrollment (participation), graduation (success) rates and retention rates
by the Texas Higher Education Board “Closing the Gap” state initiative 2 will be the primary focus.
University of Texas at El Paso BSW Program
Currently there are over 140 students enrolled in the BSW program at UTEP. UTEP’s social work program began its early history at the College of Liberal Arts. The program was transferred to the College of Health Sciences around 2004 for purposes of applying for accreditation. One of the key aspects for accreditation, are internships (field study), and use of evidenced based practices within the curriculum, which the College of Liberal Arts at the time had difficulty establishing. There were many changes to the program with the revision of policies, practices and admissions. Table 1. UTEP Incoming Cohorts past 3 years
2010 Cohort| 2011 Cohort| 2012 Fall Cohort|
60 students| 50 students| 41|
Revisions to admission are much more stringent to enter into the program as seen by the figures in Table 1. UTEP’s goal of an accredited program had to include students that could meet the higher standards as set forth by the accreditation board. Accordingly, the goals of the program were also improved to lay the groundwork for their MSW program that began in the summer of 2010.3 The UTEP MSW is currently the only program to focus primarily on work along the U.S. – Mexico border region. UT Austin reported 348 undergraduate students for their BSW program based on their Offices of Information Management and Analysis report. NMSU and UTPA requests for enrollment for 2012-2013 could not be acquired. Table 2. UTEP BSW Program Mission
Educate| Services| Partnerships|
Culturally competent social work practitioners| Provide services and promote social and economic justice| Unique multicultural, international population of the Paso Del Norte region and beyond|
Table 3. UTEP BSW Program Academic Goals
1. Provide students with liberal-arts based, generalist social work
knowledge, skills, and values related to professional practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities from a social and economic justice perspective.| 2.Preparing generalist social workers equipped with professional knowledge, values and skills necessary for culturally competent practice within the bi-national, multicultural context of the Paso Del Norte border region and beyond.| 3.Provide students with skills in scientific inquiry and evidence-based practice| 4.Preparation of BSW students for graduate education in social work.|
The Social Work Program appointed a new chair in December 2012, Dr. Candyce Berger, whom is leading the MSW program toward inception and candidacy. “The accreditation process is now entering its final phase and is scheduled to reach a conclusion in June 2013”.4 Comparable Education Programs
It is estimated that over 1,977 students graduate from social works schools every year, with Texas having 54 schools to choose from. Due to its proximity to El Paso, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico was chosen for its comparable Social Work program.
Figure 1. Texas Map location for UTEP, UTPA, UT Austin and NMSU
In a personal interview with Dr. Faith Lucas, Assistant Professor, Department of Social, College of Health Sciences, UTEP, the programs she recommended to compare UTEP to were, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico, UT Austin in Austin, Texas and the University of Texas of Pan-American, in Brownsville, Texas, who has almost the identical curricula to the program as UTEP. 5 Figure 1. Enrollment, Graduation Rates, Retention Rates
In the year 2000 the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board addressed the needs of education across the state of Texas by implementing a strategic plan to meet the goals of participation, success, excellence and research.2
Goal: By 2015, close the gaps in participation rates to add 630,000 more students.2 “The participation goal was designed to bring Texas college-going rates up to the level of the leading states. Increased participation is the
first step toward increasing student success and reaping the benefits of closing the gaps in higher education.”
The measure of success for any curriculum program is the evaluation of retention and graduation rates. Currently for UTEP, there is an overall 37% graduation rate, 75% full-time student retention rate and 10% graduating in 4 years. Graduation by race has UTEP with 36% of Hispanics graduating, followed by 48% non-resident aliens’ graduating.5
UT Austin currently has an overall 81% graduation rate, 92% retention rate and 53% graduating in 4 years, University of New Mexico, has a 45% overall graduation rate, 74% retention rate, and 12% graduating in 4 years. UTPA’s rates seem most comparable to UTEP’s with a 42% graduation rate, 78% student retention rate and 17% graduating in 4 years.
Table 4. Rates across the three colleges
| Overall graduation rate| Retention Rate| Graduating in 4 years| UTEP| 37%| 75%| 10%|
UTPA| 42%| 78%| 17%|
UT Austin| 50%| 92%| 53%|
NMSU| 45%| 74%| 12%|
UTEP is second to UTPA for enrollment by ethnicity with UTPA having a 91% enrollment for Hispanics as shown in Table 5. This could be due to the nature of the University and its proximity to the U.S-Mexico border and Matamoros, Mexico being only a stone’s throw away.
Table 5: Enrollment by Ethnicity
Across the state, much of the concern for low enrollment was due to the increase of cost per credit hour. Although enrollment trends tapered off and decreased for UTEP over the last few years, in 2012 enrollment figures were 19,217 undergraduates, and 3,532 graduate students, totaling 22,749. UTPA equals that enrollment figure with just over 19,041 students for 2012,
a 1.58% increase. NMSU was the only university of the four with a decrease in enrollment with a total of 17,651 students enrolled for 2012, a decrease of 2.1 percent.
UT Austin in February of 2012 set out to raise their graduation rate within five years. A taskforce was compiled to recommend strategies for student to earn their degrees much more quickly. Some of the recommendations that were listed included intervention programs for those in academic jeopardy, identify bottleneck courses that creates challenges for students, and create an online tool for monitoring courses and degree plan to name a few. The report can be found on http://www.utexas.edu/graduation-rates/.6 Many of the Texas schools now direct their services and strategies at helping students attain their degree at a much faster rate. Overall degree plans and prerequisite courses are now offered to allow the student success within the chosen program.
The social work programs across the three colleges seem comparable in terms of curriculum hours and necessary fieldwork hours (internship). Below is a comparison of the program requirements for UTEP and the three comparable colleges. Table 6: Social Work Program Requirements
| Credit hours needed for completion| Field work hours|
UTEP| 120 total credit hours| 480 hours over two years|
UTPA| 120 total credit hours| 480 hours over two years|
UT Austin| 155 total credit hours| 480 hours|
NMSU| 128 total credit hours| 480 hours|
The council on social work education reports that as of 2013 there are currently 483 accredited baccalaureate social work programs, 223 accredited master’s social work programs 24 baccalaureate social work programs in candidacy and 12 master’s social work programs in candidacy. UT Austin is currently ranked no. 7 for best school for a Social Work degree, although UTEP is recognized for ranking No. 1 for Social Mobility, recognizing the success and mission for recruitment and graduation of its’ Hispanic population, many whom are first to graduate in their families, from an
institution of higher learning.7 Degrees Awarded by college
Across all four colleges, degrees were awarded to females more than males in the BSW programs as noted by figure 2 below. Data that was available at the time of writing was for the years 2010-2011 except for UTEP whose data was from 2011-2012. Figure 2: Degrees awarded by Gender, BSW
UTPA awarded the most degrees for a BSW in 2010-2011 at 86 followed by UT Austin, NMSU and UTEP for 2011-2012 at 24. Figure 3: Number of BSW Degrees awarded by College 2010-2011, UTEP 2011-2012
This could be in part from the more stringent admissions, testing, and workforce demand in the area and other factors for number of degrees awarded. Current Workforce
According to the National Association of Social Workers, current workforce is beginning to enter its retirement stage and much of the social work employment is being contracted out.10 Although current estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics expect the profession to grow at a much faster rate through 2016.11 The Bureau also predicts the need for social workers will increase to 727,000 by 2016 as well. Many of the current BSW graduates in El Paso, are not finding work as Social Workers as the current workforce is glutted with many positions being filled due to how a job may be titled for activities that are normally fulfilled by a BSW. Such as identifying a position as a case worker, case manager, project manager and so forth. Many of the BSW’s are also leaving El Paso to find work elsewhere, where the need for a bilingual Social Worker is in demand. Employment Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the 2010 median pay for a Social Worker is $42,480, with a projected outlook through 2020 at a 25% increase. This is due in part for a demand within the healthcare and social services job market.11 For Texas, The Texas Workforce Commission reports that from 2010, the annual average employment at 1,700 with 2,020 for the year 2020.12 It is important to note that many of the jobs listed under Community and Social Service Specialists could also be filled by Social Workers, such as Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor, Rehab
and Family Counselors as well as Social and Human Service Assistants, which all show an increased job rate growth from 11.8% to 25% for the Social Work employment.
Annual Average Employment growth by title:
Key Informant Interview
Dr. Faith Lucas was the only key informant interview with regard to the BSW program. It was important to gain a sense of the where the program began to where it is now from an insider’s perspective. She is an Assistant Professor at UTEP as has been at the University since 2004, wherein the change began for the Social Program. A subject of conversation centered on the need to retain qualified students for the BSW as well as the MSW program. The selection process, which has become more stringent since 2010 has filtered out the students whom would not be able to fulfill all the necessary requirements as a qualified social worker. Another issue of concern was the glutted job opportunities for outgoing BSW’s. Many of them are not finding work as Social Workers, but a study is currently underway to examine what other positions may be filled by the BSW in terms of service and activity. A highlight of the UTEP BSW program is the effort and commitment to work with the community and in servicing those in need. Those services are an integral part of the success of the BSW as well as the MSW field study requirement. The student receives an opportunity to use their knowledge and skills well before their graduation date. Dr. Lucas also mentioned the scarcity of qualified MSW and their high demand upon graduation. Recommendations
Overall, the UTEP BSW program is highly competitive with its peer schools. Mostly due to its unique opportunity to work on the U.S. – Mexico Border as well as training in a bilingual setting. I found it difficult to find relevant and current information of the BSW as well accessibility to information, with regard to tracking of success.
It would be reasonable to exam the strategies set forth by the task force at UT Austin and its recommendations of: • “requiring orientation for all
incoming first-year students; Available at UTEP
• creating an online tool to better allow students and advisers to monitor progress to a degree;
• developing more intervention programs to identify and assist students in academic jeopardy;
• identifying “bottleneck” courses where lack of available seats can impede students’ ability to pursue their required paths to graduation;
• making it more difficult for students to change majors after four semesters or add a second major unless the requirements can be met within four years;
• creating flat-rate summer tuition to encourage students to take more courses;
• enforcing the state’s “slacker” rule that would increase tuition for students who have not graduated despite earning more than the required number of credits.”6
Another recommendation would be to examine funding for research in the Social Work department; such as examining workforce solutions for graduating BSW’s and other job options that fit their skills and expertise; this along with a concentrated effort to mentor and guide the BSW student toward graduation, and application to the MSW program to meet the demand within the industry. A cursory search of the literature did not deem significant results in the field of social work and the different perspectives in a changing healthcare system. Many aspects of the work entailed as a social worker involve different areas in the industry that are at times ignored, such as job safety, policy changes, advocacy, and current competencies.
During recent events of disaster and terrorism, the role of a social worker would benefit the specific communities affected by such an event. Current classroom work could also relate their activities to these types of issues and service. Long term mental health services are always needed in these areas; in turn the social worker will gain a wealth of experience. The NASW issued a statement on April 18 with regard to the West, Texas explosions, highlighting the need for these types of Social Workers.12 The statement can be found at
The role of a Social Worker is a selfless job and many of its students have life experiences that guide them toward their decision to become of service to their community, which in turn deserves an education worthy of the commitment. The programs offered in this comparative analysis have their strengths and weaknesses, but overall each fulfills the competencies as outlined by the Council on Social Work Education.
1. Reamer, Frederic G. “Ethical standards in social work: The NASW Code of Ethics.” Encyclopedia of social work (2008): 113-131. 2. Closing the Gaps Higher Education Plan, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, state initiative 2012. http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/index.cfm?objectid=858D2E7C-F5C8-97E9-0CDEB3037C1C2CA3. Accessed May 3, 2013. 3. El Paso Times, December 13, 2012, http://www.elpasoinc.com/news/business_announcements/article_0b674f2a-422f-11e2-b5ce-0019bb30f31a.html. Accessed May 1, 2013 4. Matchcollege.com, http://www.matchcollege.com/college/228796/The-University-of-Texas-at-El-Paso/TX#graduation-rate-table. Accessed May 6, 2013. 5. UT Austin Task Force Report, http://www.utexas.edu/graduation-rates/documents/GRAD-REPORT.pdf, 2000. Accessed May 4, 2013 6. Washington Monthly report, August 31, 2012, http://newsuc.utep.edu/index.php/news-latest/565-national-magazines-recognize-utep-programs-overall-value. Accessed May 6, 2013. 7. Center for Institutional Evaluation, Research and Planning, University of Texas at El Paso, http://irp.utep.edu/Default.aspx?tabid=30569. Accessed May 5, 2013. 8. The UT at Austin release preliminary Enrollment data, UT News, September 19, 2012, http://www.utexas.edu/news/2012/09/19/2012-preliminary-enrollment-data/. Accessed May 7, 2013. 9. NASW Briefing Paper, Social Workers Organization Web site. http://www.socialworkers.org/advocacy/briefing/WorkforceBriefingPaper.pdf. Accessed May 3, 2013 10. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010 Quick Facts.
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