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UMaine Orono and Machias campuses begin special education collaboration

Those studying special education at the University of Maine will now have the opportunity to obtain both their bachelor’s and master’s degree in only five years. This program will be available on both the Orono and Machias campus.

This development comes as part of the newly announced 4+1 Program which allows education students to take graduate-level courses while still an undergraduate. Through a strengthening of the relationship between the two campuses, students in Orono will now be able to enroll in online courses taught from Machias, and students from Machias will be able to earn their master’s degree through the Orono campus.

The 4+1 Program will be eligible for only those students who have already applied for teaching candidacy, something usually done during an education student’s second year. However, interested students can take courses in special or elementary education before being accepted into the program.

“Basically, elementary education majors at UMaine can opt for an area of specialization in special education, where they will take 18 credits of coursework in special education,” Casey Kelly, the communications coordinator for the College of Education and Human Development, explained. “The 4+1 Program allows 12 of those credits at the 400 level to count toward the master’s degree.”

Each student who is accepted into the 4+1 Program will be required to maintain an average GPA of 3.0 throughout their studies.

“Given the newness of the program for this semester, we have not yet accepted new students to the program,” Deborah Rooks-Ellis, assistant professor of special education and program coordinator, said. “We have had multiple inquiries and we anticipate new students for spring semester.”  

Maine’s Department of Education is legally required to provide information on its “shortage areas” to the U.S. Department of Education. In its present condition, the state’s number of special education teachers is listed as one such area of need. The newly announced partnership is expected to aid students at both campuses in their pursuit of a master’s degree in special education, as well as greatly improve the statewide educational infrastructure. Those who obtain their M.Ed. can be certified as a Teachers of Students with Disabilities in either the K-8 or 7-12 grade groups. 

“Schools across Maine are in great need of special education teachers,” Mary Mahoney-O’Neil, associate dean for academic services at the UMaine College of Education and Human Development, said in a press statement. “We see this as a way to meet that growing demand for skilled educators, and to serve the needs of Maine’s children and communities.”

The planned collaboration in education will also serve to strengthen ties between the two already closely connected branches of the University of Maine System. Since July of 2017, UMaine at Machias has been a regional campus of UMaine and is part of a primary partnership that intends to improve research opportunities and increase enrollment at each location.

“This collaboration will benefit students at both campuses,” Heather Ball, associate professor of special education at UMaine at Machias, said. “Machias students benefit from the opportunity to further their career and educational goals by earning a master’s degree at UMaine, and UMaine students benefit by having access to our undergraduate special education courses.”

“Promoting enrollment growth, increasing efficiencies, and advancing program and research opportunities are among the benefits of the relationship between UMaine and the University of Maine at Machias,” Faye Gilbert, UMaine’s interim executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, told the Maine Campus. “This latest collaboration in an area of critical need in K-12 education is a perfect example of an undergraduate program that will benefit our students and the state.”

The Orono and Machias campuses are currently considering other ways to increase their collaboration.


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