On Jan. 25, 2019, the Coordinating Board for the Arkansas Department of Higher Education approved the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith’s proposal to offer its second master’s degree program, a Master of Education (M.Ed.) with two areas of emphasis: English and curriculum and instruction.
In 2016 area educators urged the university to consider this degree due to a shortage of teachers in the area. That year the Arkansas Department of Education reported that 57,940 individuals in Arkansas had a current teaching license, although only 33,104 were employed as licensed teachers. Of the teachers employed in Arkansas public schools during the 2013-14 academic year, only 37.6 percent had master’s degrees. These statistics identified a need for teachers and administrators in the state of Arkansas.
To determine the interest level for the master’s degree, the type of preferred degree, the method of delivery and the preferred programs of study, the university surveyed three years’ of recent education graduates from UAFS, regional administrators who were members of the Guy Fenter Education Services Cooperative and Teacher Education Council members.
Survey respondents overwhelmingly preferred the M.Ed. program. Respondents, who were potential candidates in the program, indicated they would prefer a fully online format for course delivery. To build in maximum flexibility for the students, the degree will be a hybrid format with required components offered as hybrid courses and the content area courses delivered fully online.
According to Dr. Monica Riley, interim executive director of the School of Education, the proposed M.Ed. will target current classroom teachers already in the workforce who desire professional advancement, as well as recent graduates seeking advanced knowledge and further academic preparation prior to entering the workforce.
The proposal must now go through the approval process with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). If the final approval is awarded this spring, UAFS would be on track to enroll students in the program in fall 2019.
“The HLC approval for this master’s degree will be the culmination of a vision that began several years ago and was made a reality through the hard work of the university’s administration, faculty and staff,” said Dr. Edward Serna, UAFS interim chancellor.
In fall 2015 UAFS began offering its first graduate degree, a Master of Science in healthcare administration. HLC is one of eight regional accrediting associations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, accrediting degree-granting postsecondary educational institutions in the North Central region of the United States.
“Since 2002 UAFS has moved from a newlyformed four-year institution to a master’s degree-granting university that continues to create and enhance innovative educational offerings to respond to the emerging needs of the greater Fort Smith region,” Serna said.