UNA Masters in Education degree among most affordable in the country

by Managing Editor Jasmine Fleming

The Top Masters in Education website released its annual ranking of most affordable degrees, and UNA’s Master of Arts in Education degree took fourth place out of 50 universities.

The board of trustees and UNA’s administration play a large part in keeping UNA affordable, said Donna Lefort, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences.

“Many of our students do find it financially challenging to get a graduate degree, so I really do appreciate the commitment of our board to keep those costs as low as possible,” she said.

The rate for UNA in-state graduate tuition is $299 per credit hour, while the out-of-state rate is $598. The top school on the list, Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, charges $233 per hour for in-state residents and $563 for out-of-state students.

UNA’s in-state rate is also lower than at similar regional universities, including the $334 at the University of West Alabama, $675 at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and $333 at the University of Montevallo.

Although cost can be a major factor when deciding to pursue a master’s degree, the salary upgrade from a bachelor’s to a master’s in education can pay for itself, Lefort said.

“On average, a person who earns a master’s degree will recoup the entire cost of that master’s degree in two years because they will earn a little more than $6,000 per year beyond what they were earning when they held a bachelor’s degree,” she said.

There are 203 students enrolled in the program this semester, according to the Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment.

One of those students, Terri Wright, whose concentration is English Language Arts, said she chose UNA’s master’s in education program after she easily paid for a bachelor’s at UNA, she said.

“Educators mainly get a master’s degree for the pay raise,” she said. “But if the school is not affordable, it’s hard to justify the work and the cost.”

Students who enter UNA’s master’s program in education also benefit from UNA’s partnerships with local schools, or P-12 Partners, Lefort said.

With these coalitions, the education program works with schools to ensure UNA’s education curriculum fits their needs for new teachers. In turn, the education program is able to easily place graduating students at these schools, Lefort said.

Other benefits of the program include small class sizes, Lefort said, and instruction from full-time, local professors.

The connection she has with her professors is the main reason junior Casey Wright, who double majors in secondary education and Spanish, plans to pursue her ESL education master’s at UNA, she said.

“I figured getting my master’s at UNA would be easier since I already know all of the professors in the foreign languages department,” she said.

All in all, receiving recognition for affordability is a benefit for UNA, said senior Avery Jackson.

“This will help drive students to UNA,” he said. “People usually think of schools like (University of North Alabama) or (University of Alabama in Birmingham) when they think of Alabama schools, but now maybe they’ll think of us, too.”