By Sophia Harris
The FSU American Sign Language major has been rated as one of the nation's top affordable ASL bachelor’s programs by Affordable Schools, a leading higher education website that ranks college programs by quality and cost.
Of the 40 programs evaluated, Affordable Schools ranked the University's ASL program ninth in the nation.
Affordable Schools “helps adults of all ages and backgrounds obtain a high-quality education while avoiding huge college costs (and in many cases, huge college debt) that can hover over their lives for years,” according to the organization’s website.
Some considerations that contributed to the ranking were affordability, class size, and student success, according to the website.
Marc Cote, dean of arts and humanities, said it's a “great recognition.”
He said the ASL program at Framingham State is robust and comparable to the program at Northeastern University “but for a fraction of the price.”
The price of FSU’s ASL program “is a very competitive aspect,” Cote said.
There are two full-time instructors at FSU who teach ASL courses and “three or four” part-time instructors, Cote said.
He added some of the courses are taught by deaf professors, and although it is not a requirement for ASL classes to be taught by deaf instructors, it is important that students feel represented in their classes.
“We have honored the Deaf community's desire for ASL language courses to be taught by deaf instructors,” he said.
He added that the program is “fairly new.” The ASL program started as a two-year completion program, but recently, became a four-year program.
Luce Aubry, chair of the World Languages Department and ASL professor, said it was a “pleasant surprise” being ranked by Affordable Schools.
“We actually had no idea that it was happening. We're thrilled,” she said.
The ASL program offers two concentrations - one in ASL English Interpreting and the other in Deaf Studies, according to Aubry.
“So our program differentiates itself a little bit from many other ASL programs in that we require more levels of ASL than many programs do. So, students have to complete all the way up to Advanced ASL IV,” Aubry said.
Aubry said the goal for the program is to receive accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE).
In order to apply for accreditation, the ASL program has to graduate five cohorts of students. Currently, the program has only graduated two cohorts.
Aubry said another major goal for the ASL program is “to expand the number of faculty of color because we're getting so many more students of color in the program, which is fantastic.”
She added, “Historically, there have not been enough interpreters of color in the state of Massachusetts - one of the reasons being they don't see themselves among the faculty and in interpreting programs.
“So trying to grow the pool of faculty of color, but it's been very, very difficult because if you have not that many interpreters of color in the field, how many of them then move on to want to become teachers of interpreting, with the advanced degrees that requires, so that's been a big challenge.”
Aubry said she is proud of how deaf-centric the program is. “We have Deaf faculty teaching all language and Deaf Studies courses. The only faculty who aren't Deaf are the faculty who teach the interpreting classes. We're also proud of having a very active ASL Club.”
She added the ASL club had a very successful DeaFSU event last spring.
“Their DeaFSU event last spring brought in hundreds of people from the Deaf community to our campus for a vibrant event,” Aubry said.
Cote said the ASL club has become “increasingly popular.”
He said approximately 400 people attended the DeaFSU event. “I’m hoping we can do that again.”
Katie McCarthy, an ASL professor, communicated via an interpreter for her interview.
She said the ASL program at Framingham State “is more affordable. … A lot of them want to become an interpreter and we're able to make sure that it's an opportunity for them to come here and take the great courses here.”