by Ted Strong
Published June 02, 2012 in the Daily Progress
Willie Sutton is famously said to have claimed he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.”
Now, in a similar vein, the University of Virginia wants to offer more education courses in Northern Virginia because that’s where the teachers are.
UVa has offered a number of courses at its Falls Church center for years, but school officials are hoping to greatly expand those offerings in tandem with an internal shift of which academic unit runs the program.
“The Curry School is rethinking it’s role within the University of Virginia and the University of Virginia’s role within the commonwealth,” said Mark C. Hampton, associate dean for administration and planning at UVa’s Curry School of Education.
Right now, the site offers five programs, including master’s degrees in special education and the social foundations of education. The program, which has hundreds of students, has actually shrunk slightly, Hampton said.
“We could easily see a doubling of, a tripling of, some of our credential-based degrees,” Hampton said.
Master’s degree programs could expand even further, he said.
“The conversation always starts, and ultimately ends, with demographics,” said Dan Driscoll, director of one of the master’s programs at the Northern Virginia site.
Northern Virginia holds by far the largest concentration of teachers in the state, he said.
“We also have an unusually high concentration of holders of master’s degrees teaching in these schools,” he said, calling it “kind of the norm.”
Several school divisions in the area have been routinely hiring in excess of 1,000 new teachers each year, he said, in some cases because of growth and in others because of turnover.
The growth will come through the next several years, Hampton said, with very little, if any, occurring this year.
There are also very-early-stage talks to add programs at the site.
Officials are also hoping improvements to areas such as timing, format and time to completion, in some cases through the use of technology for some remote instruction, will help the program.
“Our classes are designed with you in mind,” the program’s web page tells prospective students. “We understand that you are busy, working professionals. We offer a variety of class schedules and locations across the Commonwealth.”
One goal is to cut the number of trips necessary in traffic-clogged Northern Virginia.
“We’d sort of like to develop a flavor of Curry up there that is distinctively [Northern Virginia],” Hampton said.
But a Curry degree should still mean the same thing, wherever it’s earned, he said.
Classes won’t necessarily be taught by tenured faculty, but the hope is that, because of the change in the administration of the program, they’ll be a more integrated part of Curry.
“What we’d like to see is growing these programs significantly,” Hampton said. “We believe there is great demand and great need for these programs.”
There’s talk of reshaping the social foundations program to make it more practical, with greater focus on policy and global perspectives, Hampton said.
“That certainly is appropriate for the Beltway,” he said.
The changes won’t affect the cost of the courses.
“We definitely expect to see a broader revenue base because of this, but our goal is really to look at reach,” Hampton said.
He added that there’s a possibility that courses created with more of an “executive education” approach (condensed, focused courses that presume a certain level of knowledge and ability) could see higher tuition rates.
The story was also picked up by the Associated Press and ran in the Washington Post