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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Administration

CAPS Sugar Land prepares for more students


Counseling and Psychological Services expanded to UH Sugar Land in 2015, one year after the College of Technology began its move to the campus. | Andrea Fernandez Velazquez/The Cougar

College is a demanding, and sometimes nerve-racking, stage in the lives of students who pursue higher education. At the University of Houston Sugar Land campus, Counseling and Psychological services are available three times per week.

The 375-acre UHSL campus located in Fort Bend County, near the Brazos River, first opened its doors to CAPS in 2015.

“Sugar Land is a growing community and the UH Sugar Land campus reflects that,” said Jay Neal, assistant provost of academic affairs and operations at UHSL. “Our student population has increased. That means we want to make sure that we have resources to meet this increase, specifically those resources provided by CAPS.”

UHSL has undergone changes throughout the years as new programs have been acquired. In 2014, the College of Technology’s Digital Media program began its move. In 2015, the School of Nursing opened. This semester, the College of Technology expanded its Biotechnology program to UHSL.

“The growth of the Sugar Land campus is a vital part of the strategic plan for the expansion of the CAPS office and services to UHSL,” said Leah McCoy, psychological counselor at UHSL and UH. “We continually evaluate the demands of both campuses and make adjustments, as needed, with the least amount of disruption to either location.”

Currently, CAPS services are offered Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at UHSL and only one counselor is available.

Crystal Tran, a student representative on the Student Government Association’s CAPS Advisory Committee, said students would benefit from more counselor availability.

“Nine hours of service to the Sugar Land campus weekly is definitely not enough,” Tran said. “But it is currently the best we can do.”

Norma Ngo, director of CAPS and the 2017 President-elect of the Texas University and College Counseling Directors Association, said it is unknown at this time whether the new influx of students to Sugar Land will affect demand for counseling services.

“CAPS has a ratio of 1: 3,648, and IACS recommends a ratio of 1 counselor per 1,500 students,” Ngo said. “While CAPS needs more resources for the main campus, we expect that our current staffing for the UHSL satellite office should not have a significant impact on services at the main campus.”

Ngo said the impact will be clearer when data is collected in May, and that offering more counseling at UHSL will be considered if there is a high demand.

“We just do not have enough clinicians to accommodate for the growing population of clients CAPS is seeing,” Tran said.  “Having the counselor commute from main campus to Sugar Land puts a hold on the amount of clinicians students would be able to see as well.”

In addition to email, flyers and social media tools to raise awareness about CAPS, students, faculty and staff are informed of the services personally by the counselor, Neal said.

“Part of being a successful student means you are able to negotiate all the stresses that come with each semester,” Neal said. “Our CAPS counselor, Leah McCoy, is available to meet with students here on our campus and she often uses the building’s rotunda to meet-and-greet students and remind them of the services her office provides.”

CAPS also has counseling options available to students outside of normal business hours. As of Nov. 1, a service called ProtoCall assists students after business hours as a way to increase availability and efficiency to UH Main and Sugar Land campus students.

“We just have to get the word out farther and louder in order to raise this issue,” Tran said. “Awareness is certainly key to see change happen.”

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