The University of Alaska Southeast is abandoning its early childhood education programs, saying demand for the credentials they award has declined to a point where the cost of offering the programs can’t be justified.
“It broke my heart, but I have a responsibility to be a good steward of public funds,” said Deborah Lo, Dean of the School of Education and Graduate Studies at UAS, who made the recommendation.
The decision to suspend the early childhood education degree program has already been approved by the university, and Tuesday the State Board of Education signed off on it as well.
Members of the board said they found it distressing that a program that’s had many graduates over the years was unable to continue.
Lo said that the demand was never very high, and was dropping. She said there was not high demand for the jobs, but not as high as she would have liked.
Early childhood runs from pre-kindergarten to third grade, according to the university.
She said the lack of demand would continue “as long as we are not willing to pay our early childhood providers, and the salaries are so low,” she said.
Board member Pat Shier likened it to the medical profession, where there is widespread agreement that more general practitioners are needed, but they get paid less than do specialists.
“The marketplace is perhaps out of sync with what we say our values are,” he said.
Lo told the board that the Early Childhood programs had about a dozen students working on Master’s degrees, and about 30 active undergraduates.
The master’s program will continued to be taught until those current students complete their studies, with the undergraduates moving to an identical program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Lo said.
That could provide a needed boost to the Fairbanks program, she said.
“I think they sometimes struggle as well with numbers, so it makes sense to consolidate the two programs,” she said.
It should also be fairly convenient, Lo said. Much of the program is available online and students frequently move back and forth between the two programs which were developed together.
A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the Juneau and Fairbanks schools to allow a seamless transition, she said.
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