The University of South Carolina Beaufort will offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education starting this fall, the college announced Tuesday.
USCB gained final approval for the new program last month, after it was reviewed by several organizations, including the S.C. Department of Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the regional accrediting body.
Because the elementary education program wasn't approved until May, it has no students yet, but USCB spokeswoman Candace Brasseur said that will not be the case by the fall semester.
USCB already offers an early-childhood education program, but that degree only allows students to teach as high as third grade. The new degree would make them eligible to teach grades two through six.
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According to a news release, the new program makes USCB one of the only traditional universities in this part of the state to offer an elementary education degree.
The release cited demand for a local elementary education program and a desire to "home grow" teachers at USCB and send them to local schools upon graduation, as reasons for the new program.
University officials began planning the program and curriculum in 2011. It was approved by the university's Courses and Curriculum Committee, the Faculty Senate, and the S.C. Commission on Higher Education before accreditation was sought.
Jackie Rosswurm, acting superintendent of the Beaufort County School District, called the new elementary education program "a great assistance to us."
"We have a strong partnership between the school district and USCB already," she said. "The new program will be helpful for us and the school."
Rosswurm said the school district typically hires 150 to 250 new teachers each year, about half of whom are elementary school teachers.
Brasseur said students in the early-childhood education program do their student teaching in local schools, and Rosswurm said the school district already offers student-teaching opportunities for master's degree candidates.
Dr. Nancy L. Gallenstein, the university's department of education chair, said the new degree will help local elementary school principals fill teaching positions.
"There are many teachers in our schools who are certified to teach through grade 3," Gallenstein said. "Principals need their faculty to be able to teach beyond this grade level because that makes teachers more marketable and gives principals greater flexibility in planning teaching assignments."