Education Degrees Popular

December 1, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Area colleges offer many options for teachers pursuing advanced degrees in education.

At Grand Valley State University, education is one of the leading graduate programs, according to Priscilla Kimboko, dean of graduate studies and grants administration. She said that popularity is due to the importance placed on teachers continuing their education as part of the credentialing process.

“Nearly 50 percent of our graduate work is in education,” she said. “There’s a real need in the area, and I think Grand Valley has established a good reputation in its graduate programs, as well.”

Kimboko said the college of education at Grand Valley State University has many options for those working on advanced degrees, including a new program, Educational Specialist, for people who already have a master’s degree. It is a leadership program aimed at district level administration and falls between a master’s degree and a doctoral degree, focusing on the policy and practical aspects of leadership within the educational system.

Other popular GVSU graduate programs include physical therapy and physician’s assistant programs, as well as social work. The engineering program and public administration program are also growing, Kimboko said.

The number of graduate students enrolled at GVSU this fall was 3,717, with an unduplicated head count of 6,634 students actually served in the year.

“It’s slightly up, but it’s kind of bounced around that number for the last four years,” she said.

Since 2000, there has been an increase of about 700 graduate students, Kimboko said.

“We think we’re doing pretty good here. We’re fortunate to be in a state where there is attention being paid to quality higher education,” she said.

The graduate program as a whole is gaining more recognition, Kimboko said.

“We’re not only getting Michigan residents; we’ve begun to be known outside of the state and even internationally in some of our programs,” she said. “We’re happy to have good programs that are stable and continue to grow.”

Aquinas College’s two areas of graduate studies, the School of Management and the School of Education, have stayed steady in student numbers, college officials said.

Cindy VanGelderen, dean of the School of Management, said the master of management program is adding an area of emphasis in sustainable business, mainly because of West Michigan’s interest and leadership in this area.

“Not only do we have people who have expertise in that area, but we also have interest,” she said. “We’ve been involved in a lot of those initiatives.”

With about 150 students in the master of management program, VanGelderen said the numbers have remained stable over the past few years, which is good in the competitive environment.

“We appeal to people coming from a wide variety of backgrounds in business,” she said.

Two years of management experience is required for admission to the program, which is designed for people in leadership roles.

“It’s a very people-centered program,” she said.

Nanette Clatterbuck, chairperson of the School of Education at Aquinas, said the school’s program has stayed relatively unchanged over the last few years, but is currently under a program review to make sure it remains current. Three master’s degree programs within the School of Education offer options depending on a person’s goals and history.

The Master’s in the Art of Teaching program is designed for certified teachers returning to school, while the Master’s in Education is an initial certification program for people who have a bachelor’s degree but not a teaching certificate. The third program is the Master’s in Science Education.

Clatterbuck said she bases the popularity of the advanced degree classes on the need for area teachers to continue with their education after they are employed in order to maintain their licenses.

“You may as well just work toward a master’s degree,” she said.

Robert Meyering, graduate program manager at Calvin College, said the number of students in the college’s Master’s of Education program has been increasing over the last few years to the current number of 180 students.

“It’s not very dramatic, but it’s going up,” he said.

One of the reasons for the increase in students is the additional subject areas within the program, Meyering said. The school offers degrees in educational leadership, learning disabilities, a general area of curriculum and instruction, and a growing program in literacy.

Meyering said the majority of the students are part-time, taking classes in addition to being full-time teachers.

“They find Calvin’s courses challenging and academically rigorous,” he said. “Calvin has always had a very strong education program.”    

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