Auburn University’s new online program aims to tackle teacher shortage

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) — The application deadline is fast approaching for a new degree program at Auburn University that begins this fall. The College of Humanities plans to offer a fully online bachelor’s degree to help address the nationwide teacher shortage.

Auburn has partnered with the Department of Early Childhood Education to offer a Bachelor of Human Development and Family Sciences with a focus on early childhood development. The goal is to provide a flexible program that produces highly qualified teachers for the state’s First Class Pre-K program as it continues to expand.

“We have increased our programs this year by 107 programs for the 2022-23 school year,” said Barbara Cooper, secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.

“The problem is that we need high-quality teachers to fill these classroom teaching positions,” said Emily Cumbie, student success coordinator at Auburn.

There are nearly 3,000 first-grade kindergarten teachers, but the plan is to add 200 classrooms per year until the state can enroll 70 percent of 4-year-olds by 2026.

“As we add additional classrooms, there could be even greater challenges if we don’t do things to be very proactive,” Cooper said.

Auburn’s program is completely online and asynchronous.

“These online courses are really geared towards working people, busy people,” Cumbie said. “It’s an accelerated program, so all of our courses are offered in a minimum of seven and a half weeks.”

And enrolled students can also enter the class before they even complete their degree.

“We’ll give a support teacher at least a year to get that real CDA credential so they can continue to work in their classroom,” Cooper said.

There is no cap on the number of students allowed in this program, but the deadline to apply is July 15, as classes begin this fall.

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Karen O. Fielding