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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Campus

CAPS seeks to improve staffing ratios after salary raises


University counseling services are recommended to employ one counselor for every 1,000 to 1,500 students. | Julie Araica/ The Cougar

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article, including the version in print, incorrectly identified Fahad Rehan as a member of SFAC when they deliberated CAPS’s request. Rehan resigned from the committee before they deliberated on the request.

During the Fall 2016 semester, the Student Fees Advisory Committee recommended added funding for salary raises for UH’s Counseling and Psychological Services unit.

The International Association of Counseling Services recommends University counseling services hire one counselor for every 1,000 to 1,500 students — UH employs one counselor for every 3,647 students.

SFAC granted CAPS a budget increase of $265,161 for fiscal year 2018. SFAC chair and finance junior Brinda Penmesta says the increase could improve the unit’s student-to-counselor ratio.

“The increased funding is primarily intended to help CAPS recruit and retain more counselors in order to move towards a more favorable counselor-to-student ratio,” Penmesta said. “Thus better serving students.”

SFAC reviews 34 units annually by sending out a budget report questionnaire, hearing unit presentations and reviewing department’s funding histories. Board members then evaluate how the unit addresses student needs, whether the unit operates according to its mission and with other departments, and if there is a demand from students for more or less of the unit’s services.

SFAC’s determination allowed for salary increases to $57,000 to $95,000 per year for some staff, and CAPS director Norma Ngo is in the process of hiring new employees for the department.

Based on factors such as degree and years of experience, service and licensure, new hires could be offered salaries up to $70,000, when the previous possible maximum was around $55,000.

Ngo said CAPS is still in the early stages of the hiring process, and she has yet to make any offers.

“I believe we are heading in the right direction, but time will tell as we complete our current and future staff searches,” Ngo said. “I am very hopeful that our salary increases will raise our competitiveness in comparison to other counseling centers.”

The salary increases at CAPS may point to improvement for the unit’s hiring competitiveness and staff retention. Student Government Association Sen. Fahad Rehan, who served on SFAC at the time of the CAPS decision, said the benefits are especially evident regarding student-staff relationships.

“A lot of students have the issue where they build up rapport, build up trust with like a certain clinician, and then they just leave without saying anything,” Rehan said.

However, despite an increase in funding, Rehan said CAPS still faces challenges within the unit.

“The problem CAPS is really having now is with space, not with numbers,” Rehan said. “They’re still overwhelmed, but that’s not what their biggest issue is. Their biggest issue now is the fact that they’ve got all these students, and they don’t have any more space to break students in.”

Rehan proposed CAPS should move into part of the new medical center building on campus once it is built. He said some at CAPS would prefer a new building specifically for CAPS.

The funding awarded to CAPS was allocated from the Student Services Fee, one of the mandatory tuition fees for UH students.

“The best thing that has come out of this is that the students have spoken and believe that more attention and resources should be directed to support their mental and psychological well-being,” Ngo said.

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