After turning out thousands of court reporters over 80 years, and most recently closed captioners, AIB College of Business in Des Moines is getting closer to the end of its court reporting and related majors program. AIB President Nancy Williams says there were only six applications for the program heading into last fall, and they can’t afford to keep the program for a handful of students.
Plus, there’s a huge dropout rate, because of the difficulty and practice time required. Williams also points to another factor. “There was some negativity actually in the media a few years ago about the profession and its viability in the long term, in other words threats of the jobs being taken over by a recording device,” Williams says.
State Court Administrator David Boyd says the negative publicity probably played some role in the decrease in demand for the job, but he says there was a perfect storm that hit the profession. Boyd says after layoffs in 2009, there are 35 fewer court reporters now. And they did test digital recording systems that other states are using, and found they work.
“We have no plans to replace any court reporter with digital recording. Certainly, down the road there may be a place for digital recording,” Boyd says. “Certainly down the road there may be place for digital recording.” Magistrate courts have been using tape recorders, but not at the district court level, where 150 court reporters transcribe testimony with their steno machines. AIB was stunned by the sharp backlash to its decision. Some feel the demise of the program will be the demise of the profession.
President Williams said they did their best to save it. “I’d say it’s probably the hardest decision I had to recommend to the board in all my time, because it’s very emotional and a there’s a lot of history, and you know it’s a wonderful program, and we have been trying very hard to keep it and to get people excited to take this major and just to no avail. So, it’s frustrating at the same time,” Williams says.
The profession has changed too. Former court reporter Holli Herrin is now a freelance captioner for television programs. “And the funny thing is the need for captioners I would say has never been greater. I get requests to work 12 hours a day.” AIB Public Relations Director Jane Meisner says the college will now emphasize popular courses in accounting, business administration, sports and event managing.
The final students in the program will graduate in 2015 and then the curriculum will go the way of an earlier vocation, when AIB was considered a school for secretaries.