With new programs, education school sees increase in enrollment

Media Credit: Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

After five years of dropping enrollment rates, the Graduate School of Education and Human Development hopes to attract more students with its new strategic plan.

Nearly two years after launching its strategic plan, officials at GW’s education school are hoping its new programs will help to draw in more students than ever.

The plan, so far, seems to be working. Michael Feuer, the dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, said enrollment at the school has increased for this year, one of the first times the number of students has grown in recent years.

After enrollment dropped by more than 20 percent in recent years, GSEHD began to implement new programs through a strategic plan, called “GSEHD Vision 2020,” to boost those numbers and keep the school competitive.

“We are essentially ahead of projections for our on-campus enrollments, but I should say that I am not opening any Champagne on this yet because it is a very challenging external environment,” Feuer said.

Senior Associate Dean Carol Kochhar-Bryant said in an email the school is restructuring and accelerating at least six master’s programs — an initiative laid out in the school’s strategic plan in 2014.

“We believe that the innovation in our master’s programs, which will enable students to complete within one year or a year and a half, represents a competitive strategy, and already we are seeking increasing enrollments in these programs,” Kochhar-Bryant said in an email. “Students tell us that the acceleration made the difference for them.”

The programs include elementary, secondary, special and international education, as well as higher education administration and organizational leadership and learning. Feuer said the master’s programs with accelerated curricula allow students to finish the same courses in less time.

“The response has been very positive,” Feuer said. “We have had more people expressing interest, more people tapping on our web pages, more people applying and hopefully more people coming.”

Sylven Beck, an associate professor of curriculum and pedagogy, who has been at the school for 38 years, said that when Feuer asked the school leaders to accelerate or shrink credit numbers, she was up for the challenge.

The elementary education master’s program has been cut down from a 39-credit requirement to 33 credits but still provides students with the same teaching license, and Beck said students are saving close to $8,500.

“Year in and year out, I am able to keep high standards and hold faculty to those high standards and excellence of what we do for our teachers,” she said.

Beck said that this year she almost doubled her enrollment numbers in the elementary education program from 14 students last year to 22 this year.

“It is such a wonderful bunch — I cannot stop bragging about who we have in the program and I am excited that they will be going out to teach,” Beck said. “They aren’t doing it for the money, you know that. But they are so dedicated to what they want to do, this is a real passion for them.”

Feuer said the school has also stepped up its outreach and marketing to try to spread the word about GSEHD and its programs to potential applicants.

“We are working with a quite modest marketing budget and doing some amazing things in order to get the message out and reach new prospective students, and to make sure that we are conveying that they can get a rigorous and effective education here,” Feuer said.

In March, GSEHD received $1.45 million for GWTeach, a GSEHD program, to train students to become science, technology, engineering and math teachers. The STEM field has seen a rise in job availability in the District, with more positions than any other major city in the U.S.

Kochhar-Bryant said that new programs continue to develop as the school has begun to successfully implement their GWTeach program, where “it is the goal of GSEHD to greatly expand capacity to prepare more teachers” in STEM areas.

The school has created an “Assessment, Testing and Measurement” master’s program and certificate, a Reading & Literacy Masters Program and a STEM certificate, Kochhar-Bryant said. She said the GWTeach program has been launched in a five-year, grant-funded collaboration between the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and GSEHD’s secondary education program.

In addition to the accelerated master’s programs and strategic plan, Feuer said the Board of Trustees and University administrators recently approved a new research-focused Ph.D. program in educational science.

Feuer said the school has begun to lay a solid foundation but 2020 is still a few years away, and GSEHD will continue to take progressive steps toward making the school more competitive in the meantime.

“Within my school here, within GSEHD, we are doing some extraordinarily innovative and quite effective teacher preparation strategies that are enabling our future teachers that are going here to be prepared,” Feuer said.

Jacqueline Thomsen contributed reporting

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