Miami-Dade education school plans to launch B.A. program
By Sherri C. Ranta
Miami-Dade Community College hopes to help fill Florida's teacher shortage through a new state program allowing two-year colleges to grant bachelor of art degrees in education.
College officials are targeting fall 2003 to launch its first four-year degree program and expect as many as 500 students to sign up, said Dr. Leslie Roberts, director of the school of education.
"We already have students in the pipeline. The majority of students surveyed who intend to pursue a bachelor's degree said they would stay if that type of program is available at the college," she said.
Miami-Dade, the largest single-district community college in the US with enrollment of about 138,500, has about 5,100 students at its School of Education, which now grants only associate's degrees. The education school's enrollment is up 16.5% from fall 2000, Ms. Roberts said. About 85% of all M-DCC students transfer to schools granting four-year degrees.
The Council for Education Policy Research and Improvement, a state advisory panel, and the Florida Board of Education are expected to approve M-DCC's application this year, Ms. Roberts said.
The program then must be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools before classes can begin, according to state regulations. The entire approval process is expected to take at least one year, she said.
Miami-Dade is seeking $1.9 million from the state to cover the program's start-up costs, Ms. Roberts said, such as consultant fees, additional support staff and upgrades to computer technology.
Florida Department of Education official Patricia Windham said the state's new program allows community colleges to award four-year degrees in regions that are far from public universities or in professions that have a shortage of workers, such as teaching, nursing and information technology. Colleges will have the discretion to propose programs to meet local needs, she said.
"The Legislature is concerned that Florida needs to increase its bachelor degree production for more high-tech jobs, and compounding that problem is the need for more teachers and nurses," she said. "The Legislature is trying to look at all possible alternative ways of raising education attainment across the state."
M-DCC is one of four community colleges out of the state's 28 to apply for the program, Dr. Windham said.
"I think everyone is waiting to see how this process plays out. We don't have a real good feel of how many colleges might consider it," she said.
Already approved is St. Petersburg College. That school is expected to offer four-year degree programs in nursing, teaching and information technology. Classes are expected to begin in August, Ms. Windham said.
The State Legislature approved about $4 million for the program, she said. St. Petersburg College received an additional $1 million for start-up costs. State officials are seeking another $3 million in the 2003 state budget and another $937,000 for St. Petersburg College, Ms. Windham said.
According to state projections, about 16,000 new teaching positions will be needed each year for the next 10 years to serve Florida's classrooms. Universities in Florida are only producing about 6,000 teacher-education graduates each year, Ms. Roberts said.
"There is clearly a significant gap in supply and demand," she said. "The other thing we will emphasize is the need for more minority teachers. The school-aged minority population is increasing while the number of minority teachers is actually decreasing.
"For those who want to change careers," Ms. Roberts said, "it is pretty general knowledge there is a teacher shortage and that anyone who is interested and can be successful in teacher-education programs is likely to get a job."
A drawing card for the M-DCC four-year education program, she said, will be affordability. While course tuition is set by the state, total cost will be less than at traditional universities.
"It will definitely be a bargain financially," Ms. Roberts said. "It will be a good deal."