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Students now have better access to information on how much their doctoral education is going to cost, how long it's going to take to graduate, the chances of dropping out and their prospects for landing a paid internship in practice-based programs, thanks to a rule developed last year by APA's Committee on Accreditation (CoA).

As of Jan. 1, APA-accredited doctoral psychology programs must post information on those four topics on their Web sites and publish the data in catalogs distributed for the 2007-2008 academic year.

And this coming January, doctoral programs must list online how graduates do in achieving licensure once they earn their doctorates, and publish licensure rates in their 2008-2009 academic year catalogs. The guidelines apply to doctoral-level professional psychology programs in the areas of clinical, counseling and school psychology, and combinations thereof.

The requirements--part of CoA's Implementing Rule C-20--can help those who want to earn a psychology doctorate gain a better understanding of what they're getting into, says Kent Wilson, the Committee on Accreditation student member and a fourth-year psychology student at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education.

APA-accredited programs have long been required to provide accurate information on their education and training outcomes, says Susan Zlotlow, PhD, director of APA's Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation.

But by giving programs specific instructions on what information needs to be posted and published, the new rule makes the information accessible to students, says Celiane Rey-Casserly, PhD, CoA past-chair.

It's important that prospective students have access to such information to compare programs, given that earning a doctorate usually means devoting four to seven years of their life to a program and taking on significant debt, Wilson says.

"This allows a student to look at the same information from one program to the next," Zlotlow says.

Information programs need to post include:

  • Time to completion. Programs will provide the mean and median number of years that students have taken to complete the program and the percentage of students completing the program in fewer than five years, five years, six years, seven years or more than seven years.

  • Program costs. Programs must list the tuition and fees charged per student for the current first-year cohort, but may also list current adjustments to tuition, including financial aid, grants, loans, tuition remission, assistantships and fellowships.

  • Internships. Programs will provide the number and percentage of students who apply for and obtain internships, and list the number and percentage of students who find internships, paid internships, APPIC-member internships and APA- or Canadian Psychological Association-accredited internships.

  • Attrition. Programs are expected to report the number and percentage of matriculated students who failed to complete the program in the past seven years.

  • Licensure. Starting in 2008, programs must report the number and percentage of program graduates who have become licensed psychologists within the preceding decade.

Across all the requirements, programs are encouraged to put the information in context by explaining how the results fit into their programs' overall goals, says Rey-Casserly, director of the Neuropsychology Program at Children's Hospital in Boston.

For example, a doctoral program that emphasizes the preparation of research-oriented psychologists for academic careers might have more students who take seven years to complete a doctorate, Rey-Casserly says.

"There's no limit to how programs present the information; it just has to be accurate," she says.

Making more information readily accessible is part of a larger trend in higher education, Zlotlow says. Many colleges and universities are listing student outcomes to be more transparent.

-C. Munsey