U.Va. Wise launches master’s degree in education
Like the rest of the country, Virginia’s public schools are suffering from a teacher shortage. In the 2022-23 academic year, there were 3,573 vacancies statewide, and more teachers are working with only provisional licenses, which don’t require teacher preparation courses.
In Southwest Virginia, though, educators are signing up for a master’s degree in education that the University of Virginia’s College at Wise is offering this fall, its first graduate-level degree program. Applications opened May 1, and the school received more than 40 responses in the first three weeks, even though tuition for the 2023-24 year hadn’t yet been set, says U.Va. Wise Chancellor Donna Price Henry.
“We were hoping that this first cohort will have 20 students, so we’re excited that we have more applications than that,” she says. “We’re planning to accommodate all who qualify.”
Although teachers can get licensed in Virginia with a bachelor’s degree, many opt for master’s degrees because they can qualify for higher pay and often gain more job opportunities — but Southwest Virginia lags behind Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads in the number of teachers who have master’s degrees in education.
U.Va. Wise’s board of visitors approved the program last year, and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia approved the degree in March.
“Education seemed to make the most sense for our first master’s degree program,” Henry says. “Our thought was that if we could offer a graduate degree, it would provide teachers with that access, and then, hopefully, that enhanced education might help them to be better teachers.”
The nearly 69-year-old college worked with the University of Virginia to create the 30-credit-hour program, which has a concentration in curriculum and instruction. “[Graduates] will be better equipped to design curriculum, supervise other teachers and go into administration,” says SCHEV Director of Academic Affairs Joseph DeFilippo.
The new program will also provide those without a teaching license the courses they need to be provisionally licensed in special education and other subjects, Henry says. It’s flexible, with a full-time track that takes a year to complete, a five-year part-time path, and a combination of remote, in-person and hybrid courses.
“We could add some different tracks in the future, and one track that we’re looking at is for librarians, which is a need across the commonwealth,” as well as a track for reading specialists, she says.