The idea of Fort Lewis College, Colorados only public liberal arts college, instituting a masters degree program had been bandied about for more than a decade.
Now, after years of planning, discussions and focus groups, the dream is coming true, with the college Board of Trustees unanimously voting to offer a masters of arts in education starting in 2013.
Im very excited about it. FLC offering a masters degree in education will serve the whole region, said FLC President Dene Kay Thomas.
College spokesman Mitch Davis said the program will focus on leadership and be aimed at teachers who want to take on a leadership role in their schools principal, department chair, whatever within the leadership structure of their institutions.
FLC expects about 22 students to enroll in the programs first year. Davis said the board was anticipating the program to be revenue-neutral off the bat.
Year one, were expecting expenses of about $123,000, and if we can attract the number of students were projecting, we should be able to bring in $125,000, he said.
The program will require 30 credits (and likely two years) to complete. Each credit hour will cost $300.
There are more than 2,400 teachers within a 100-mile radius of the college, and at least 140 are FLC graduates. Davis said research showed only about half of those teachers have masters degrees, though the majority would like a masters and would likely come to FLC if it offered a masters program.
Thomas said, We did the strategic planning, we set the goal, and we said we wanted to grow by targeting very carefully selected programs. Number one on that list was master of arts in teaching. The need was there, and the expertise in our faculty was here.
John Wells, vice chairman of FLCs Board of Trustees, said the decision to offer the program was precipitated by a very interesting discussion over the last several months over doing a masters because the liberal arts is FLCs primary foundation.
But the entire staff, especially Richard Fulton (FLCs director of teacher education), did a wonderful job of analyzing the need and calculating what the cost-and-benefit ratio was going to be, Wells said. He convinced us its going to be a wonderful program that benefits both the college and K-12 education in the entire region west of here, New Mexico, Pagosa Springs, Durango, Cortez and beyond by helping students secure masters degrees in education.
Thomas said a healthy sense of collegial rivalry also factored into the decision.
Part of this is that our graduates were going to Adams State to get their education masters. That was hard to watch. They were advertising here. And obviously, the need for this program was there, as our graduates would much rather get their masters from us than Adams State, Thomas said.
Fulton said, I think its going to be a whole new dimension that were going to be able to offer the whole Southwest community.
Thomas also said Fulton had been critical in persuading the board to opt for a master of arts in education over only a masters in education.
Hes particularly proud because were not looking at a masters in education, which are often just overblown bachelors degrees that institutions call masters, she said.
Thomas said the board was hoping to offer other masters programs in the future.
Number one on my list is an MBA program, which is another regional need that we can feel. But were hardly even in the discussion stage. Right now, our goal is the master of arts in education, she said.
With FLC poised to offer graduate programs, will it cease being a college and start being a university?
Theres no name change associated directly with this new program, but a name change is something the college has talked about in the past, Davis said. And in the colleges strategic plan, its a goal to have that discussion in a very serious way over the next few years about whether a name change for FLC would be something beneficial.
I personally dont think it makes sense to change our name from FLC to Fort Lewis University then wed be FLU. But thats a discussion the campus will be having in the next few years, he said.