The University of Virginia's College at Wise. Courtesy of UVA Wise.

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise has received approval from the state higher education council to establish its first graduate degree program. 

The Master of Education program will be available starting this fall. It will require 30 credit hours with a concentration in curriculum and instruction. 

The master’s program will build on UVA Wise’s undergraduate teaching programs and licensing programs, Andy Cox, the school’s director of teacher education and education department chair, said in a statement. It will provide educators with additional skills as schools across the state look to fill teacher shortages. 

Fewer than 40% of educators in Southwest Virginia hold a master’s degree, compared to 58% in the rest of the state, according to a report provided to the university’s board of visitors in 2022.

The program will allow students to participate in person, online or through hybrid learning. A full-time student could expect to complete the degree in a year, while part-time students will have up to five years to complete their coursework. Students will also be able to complete coursework to become provisionally licensed in special education or in the content area for which they received their undergraduate degree.

About 2,000 students attend UVA Wise, which offers 33 majors. While this is the school’s first graduate program, it offers 24 teaching licenses. 

A fall 2022 survey of undergraduate students in the teacher education program at UVA Wise found that 90% were interested in enrolling in a graduate program at Wise. The education master’s program anticipates enrolling about 12 full-time equivalent students in fall 2023, with that number doubling by fall 2027.

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors approved the proposed program in June 2022, and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia signed off on it this week. Seven public universities in Virginia offer similar graduate degree programs, but the closest to Wise is at Radford University, 2.5 hours away by car. 

Lisa Rowan is education reporter for Cardinal News. She can be reached at lisa@cardinalnews.org.