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Drake will discontinue its applied behavior analysis program

Drake University's Old Main building
Catherine Wheeler
Drake's Board of Trustees voted last week to discontinue its master's of applied behavior analysis program. It began in 2017.

Drake University’s Board of Trustees has voted to discontinue its applied behavior analysis master’s program.

Drake’s ABA program began in 2017. It trains students to become board certified behavior analysts, or BCBAs. They can go on to provide services to people with autism. Advocates say there's a shortage of these providers in the state.

Maria Valdovinos, a Drake professor and the director of the ABA master’s program, said while the administration has told her considering closing the program was due to low enrollment, 92 people applied to start the program in the fall.

"It's just unfortunate that the administration didn't believe enough in the program to grant us the grace to jump back from the COVID pandemic and actualize what impact that may have had on our enrollment, and see that there was great need and great potential," she said.

More ABA services have moved into the state since 2017, and Valdovinos said the program's graduates have helped to fill the need.

"There was 100 percent employment for each of our students that graduated," she said. "So finding employment finding a job was not a challenge. The jobs are there. The market is there to support this profession. But, you know, it's just not enough. We need desperately need so many more behavior analysts in the state."

The program received state support since it began, with the goal of weening the program off financial support. According to a Drake press release announcing the program, the goal was to address a "critical workforce need" in Iowa.

But did not reach its financial sustainability goals, according to the Iowa Department of Education.

Valdovinos said they will allow current students to finish their program, whether they’re full or part time.

The university did not respond to a request for comment.

Catherine Wheeler was Iowa Public Radio's All Things Considered host and a reporter from 2021 to 2023.