Genetic counseling program affected proposed budget cut

Cynthia Gomez

The genetic counseling program at CSUN is being affected by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed $312.9 million cut to the CSU system budget.

The program stopped accepting new students in 2008 due to the proposed budget cut, upsetting CSUN students and professors in the program.

“First, I was just horrified because this is not only a Northridge program, it’s really a genetic counseling program for the whole L.A. basin,” said Aida Metzenberg, professor and director for the genetic counseling program since 1995. “(Students) have been calling about getting into the program and that’s very sad that there is not going to be admissions this year.”

Stan Charnofsky, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, said the program is important for not only CSUN, but for the entire state of California.

“Isn’t it a shame that we’re not going to be able to produce these people?” Charnofsky said.

Charnofsky, one of the founders of the genetic counseling program, was admitted into the program in 1994 along with five other founding faculty members, all of who have retired since then except for Charnofsky.

Metzenberg indicated that currently UC Irvine and CSUN are the only two universities with a genetic counseling program in the state. A new program is starting at Stanford University and CSU Stanislaus.

Metzenberg said there is a need for genetic counselors.

“Our students go to hospitals and clinics in Los Angeles, sometimes even in Orange County,” Metzenberg said. “All these wonderful people both at CSUN and all over are giving time and effort for training genetic counselors and if this program closes, then that all goes away.”

Metzenberg commented on the university’s reaction to the program being cut.

“They’re just throwing up their hands basically,” she said. “They’re saying that there’s going to be budget cuts. One of them is going to be the genetic counseling program.”

Charnofsky said the reason why the genetic counseling program is being cut is because of its small number of students in the program.

“So when you have one (program) that has eight or nine or ten in it, of course they’re going to say we can’t keep funding those programs,” Charnofsky said. “But the problem is now you have all these hospitals around here and medical centers that reply on genetic counselors and nobody else is producing them in California.”

Megan Hooper, a student in the genetic counseling program, said it is a “shame” and “unfortunate” that the university is trying to get “rid” of the program.

“It really brings a lot of diversity?to CSUN and (the university) really shouldn’t be eliminating programs that bring diversity to the campus,” Hooper said. “It’s also a loss to the Los Angeles County community because we actually go out to hospitals and assist them with the patients and we advocate for the profession. So it’s definitely a loss to the CSUN community and we’d lose the uniqueness of our program.”

Hooper said that not having a genetic counseling program would affect students who want to apply to the program.

“There’s definitely not enough programs out there to eliminate another one,” Hooper said. “It’s just not good.”

Metzenberg said the program will continue if the Roland Tseng College of Extended Learning decides to get involved and agrees to handle the program’s finances and if enough students apply to the program. The genetic counseling program is expected to hear from the college’s decision in a couple of weeks. The program’s class of 2009 consists of nine students, the most the program has ever had, Metzenberg said.

“I think our governor needs to wake up and not cut education,” Charnofsky said. “If he wants to cut things, cut his own salary. Cut some of the legislators who don’t understand where the money should go. It’s just silly to cut education.”