By Scott Calzolaio
FSU administrators and faculty are planning to develop accelerated graduate degree programs which will allow students to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years.
The programs, coordinated by the Office of Graduate Studies, will allow students to earn graduate credit while finishing their bachelor’s degrees.
The program, according to Dean of Graduate Students, Yaser Najjar, is being looked into by the English, education, sociology and food science departments. He added the food science department plans to implement the program as early as fall 2015.
The Four Plus One graduate bachelor’s/master’s program would allow students to complete up to four graduate courses as part of their bachelor degree program.
“[They] will count towards the 32 undergraduate courses. At the same time, it will also be counted toward the ten graduate courses required for the master’s degree,” said Najjar.
Students would apply as juniors for this accelerated degree program, and would potentially be able to shave an entire year off their academic career, saving both time and money earning their master’s degrees.
Applicants must obtain a number of letters of recommendation from faculty, as well as maintain a minimum GPA, varying by department. A statement of interest is also required for all applicants.
“If you look at the whole picture, we are saving the student money,” said Najjar, “because during the senior year, those four graduate courses will be free as part of the tuition paid towards the undergraduate.”
During the fifth year, classes will cost somewhere between $1,045 to $1,085 per course, he said.
“When we multiply by six courses, we’re talking about no more than $6,500. You can’t beat that,” he said. “At a private university, you are looking at about $45,000 a year for two years. That’s almost $100,000 in total. ...We are not in the private sector. We do not compete to make money – we operate as a non-profit.”
Sophomore English major Julia Sarcinelli said, “I would love to take this program. I think it’s really helpful to students, and it definitely helps save money. I really hope that it’s ready when I’m a junior.”
Sophomore biology major Mark Essery said, “Especially if college costs keep going up, it’s a great program to utilize.” He added, “I would definitely be for that.”
Having a graduate program could mean additional faculty, more advanced labs and new technology, depending on the department, Najjar said. The programs will be administered jointly by the graduate studies and the discipline departments.
“So the department chairs, graduate coordinators and the academic deans will be involved in this program,” he said.
These programs are being developed at different paces by different departments. They will be implemented as they are approved, a process which may take four to six months. Najjar hopes the English department will submit its proposal by spring or summer, he said.
English professor Lisa Eck, who is helping to develop the department’s program, said, “It’s another year to go beyond senior seminar, and deepen skills.” She added, “It’s going to have a thesis, so there is an extended piece of work that shows they have the skill set of research and writing and synthesis and all the things that employers look for.”
The education department faculty are currently in the process of creating multiple master’s programs, with the goal of making them all into Four Plus One programs. The two areas of education they hope to include are special education and English as a second language. Five-year programs are in development for these two areas in every age group – childhood education, elementary education and secondary education, a total of six new programs in development.
“At this time, the education department is investigating several options for ;fth-year master’s degree programs,” said Dr. Julie Zoino-Jeannetti, the department’s chair. “This is an exciting opportunity to develop new programming.”
Najjar said he would like to develop Framingham’s version of the Four Plus One program based on similar programs at Salem and Bridgewater State Universities.
“We are encouraging other departments to think about it,” said Najjar. “My argument is that if the department would like to grow and gain a better reputation, then they have to think about graduate programs. ... At this University, we are trying to integrate the graduate and undergrad together. We cannot continue to just be an undergrad institution.”
He asked students to push their departments to expand and adapt a master’s program.
“I need the support of the student body and for them to talk to their departments,” said Najjar.
“Especially those departments that don’t have a graduate program. ... In education, the future is for new ideas and new innovations.”
Victoria Sepavich senior criminology major said, “In the future I would like to see it in my major.” She added, “Criminology is really broad, and a lot of different career possibilities will really only hire you if you have a master’s. ... They will almost not hire you unless you have military experience or a master’s degree.”
Junior English major Danielle Winters said, “That was something I looked for in a university when I was comparing schools. If I had the chance I would definitely apply.”
Sophomore business major Ashley Belair said, “I think it would be a really good idea, but if you wanted to widen your networks, then I think getting your master’s degree from another school could be more helpful. But I can see it going either way. Getting your bachelor’s and your master’s degree at the same time is a great opportunity.”