Selecting the Right Graduate Program
Because a graduate education represents a significant investment in time and money, it is important that you select the right university and the right program. Accreditation, faculty, tuition, and program selection are some factors you will want to consider in making your decisions.
In assessing the quality of a university, make sure that the appropriate regional accrediting body accredits the university.
The University of North Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of the University of North Florida. Individual contact to the Commission on Colleges about the University of North Florida accreditation status should occur only if there is evidence that appears to support significant noncompliance with a requirement or standard.
If you're planning on graduating from a professional program within a university, you also will want to determine if that program is itself accredited by the appropriate national professional association. This is important for two reasons. National accreditation demonstrates that the program meets national standards and as such represents the best the profession has to offer. Completing a nationally accredited program also helps to assure your ability to secure professional licensing and certification in other states. In some states certification and/or licensing requires graduation from a nationally accredited program. We are proud of the fact that UNF's College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) is NCATE (National Council on Accreditation in Teacher Education) accredited.
COEHS Accreditation Information
When selecting a university and a program, you will want to look at the quality of the faculty including their academic background. Graduate faculty members should have earned doctoral degrees in their specific disciplines and be drawn from a variety of institutions which are themselves recognized nationally. The forty-five graduate faculty members in the COEHS hold doctoral degrees from twenty-one different universities including many of the country's leading programs in education.
Another characteristic of the faculty that you will want to look at is their involvement in ongoing research and providing national leadership to their profession. In strong graduate programs the faculty bring firsthand knowledge of research and national perspectives to the classroom. Having a professor who wrote the book or conducted the study brings a unique dimension to the class as does having a professor who is the national expert in her or his specialty area. Recognizing this, UNF's COEHS supports faculty in these areas. As a result the college's faculty have authored textbooks in areas such as learning theory, assessment, educational leadership, and curriculum development. The faculty also includes nationally recognized experts in technology in education, multi-cultural education, and a number of other fields. Other faculty members are engaged in research in areas such as early literacy and models of teacher and school counselor preparation.
While you're looking at the faculty, you will also want to consider the percentage of courses that are taught by full-time versus part-time faculty. Part-time faculty often bring unique insights to courses that they teach; however, because of their other responsibilities, part-time faculty members are unable to provide on-going program advisement for students and the leadership that is needed for comprehensive and strong program development. For these reasons reputable institutions offering graduate study find that students benefit from having the majority of course work taught by full-time faculty members while strategically using part-time faculty in specific courses. The COEHS continually strives to realize an ideal mix between the use of full-time and part-time faculty.
The cost of tuition is also a factor to consider in selecting a graduate program. A survey of graduate tuition in the northeast Florida region shows that there is a large variance in the cost of graduate education in northeast Florida. Because we are a state-supported institution, UNF is able to keep its tuition costs at the bottom of this range while still providing a quality education at a reasonable cost.
The match between the program offered and your professional goals is perhaps the most important characteristic to examine. This is best done in consultation with advisers or faculty who represent the program. Though UNF's COEHS has a variety of master's programs, we don't have programs that meet everyone's needs. To be certain of the match between your needs and our programs, we encourage you to meet with one of our professional advisers and with representatives of our faculty during one of our graduate orientation seminars. If you aren't scheduled to attend one of these seminars, please give us a call at 620-2530, and we'll be happy to make an appointment for you.
The match between a program and your particular needs also requires that the program can accommodate your full-time or part-time status and your working schedule. To meet the needs of working professionals and full-time students, the COEHS offers its graduate courses in the evenings and during weekends. During summer months we also offer some courses during the day. For cohort master's programs many of the courses are offered at off-campus sites selected to meet the needs of cohort members.
Selecting the right program requires pre-planning. If we can help in the process, please contact the Office of Academic Advising between 8am-5pm weekdays.