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It Starts at the Roots: Reinstated Undergraduate Education Programs at UAlbany

By Angelina Ochoa | February 5, 2024


The Milne School at the University at Albany.

Photo Credit: The University At Albany 


The University at Albany was founded in 1844 as the New York State Normal School, known as an exclusive training ground for future teachers for more than a century. It has now been 75 years since the University at Albany left its beginning as a solely teachers college. However, recent developments have pushed for a rebirth of education programs available to undergraduate students at UAlbany.


In the 1960s UAlbany moved on from its status as a teachers college and developed into a research university, following Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller’s public university plan. Up until 1977, UAlbany housed an experimental teaching laboratory known as the Milne School. The remnants of UAlbany's undergraduate education programs remained until 2004 when the program was cut.


Despite this decline, on Friday, Jan. 26, The New York State Department of Education approved three new undergraduate education programs to be added to the University at Albany. Not only would this allow the university to come full circle with its teacher college roots, but would also permit former students from the College of Saint Rose (which recently announced its upcoming closure) to complete their degrees.


The three undergraduate education programs will include childhood and special education, adolescent education, and early childhood education. Prior to the Saint Rose closure announcement, there was discussion taking place on possibly reactivating undergraduate teacher preparation programs as the result of rising demand for teachers and increasing interest from students.


In 2016, the UAlbany School of Education launched an undergraduate major in human development, which has rapidly spread to more than 400 declared and intended majors. Many of them have concentrations in elementary education, special education, and literacy.


Estimates have predicted that the state of New York will have a need for about 180,000 new teachers spanning across the next decade to keep up with expected retirements along with other vacancies. Today, UAlbany is known to be one of the most diverse research universities in the country. With this development of education programs, the university may have the ability to fill a rising demand for teachers as well as being able to diversify the workforce. 


“Can we help fill [teaching jobs] with a workforce that represents New York? We know we definitely can,” said Jordan Carleo Evangelist, UAlbany Director of Communications and University Spokesperson.


The university’s student profile puts the school in a unique position to guarantee that the New York teacher pipeline is representative of the state’s diversity. Percentage wise, more than 42 percent of UAlbany undergraduate students identify as Black or Latinx.


Reflecting on the rising demand for teachers, education programs at St. Rose have a notable interest rate and large class sizes. It now seems critical to keep the education pipeline open in the Capital Region as St. Rose students look to complete their degrees. 


“It was important for UAlbany to start these programs both to help Saint Rose students finish their degrees and because there is significant unmet demand for teachers in New York. Ensuring there is a public option for aspiring teachers in the Capital Region was critical. We want to be able to help supply the teachers that our local schools need,” added Evangelist.


UAlbany was the first school to release a teach-out plan for St. Rose students to complete their degrees. This announcement was released just before spring semester, and was met with some distress due to the fact that the plan did not include education programs. 


“At a time when there continues to be a critical shortage of teachers statewide and nationally, we are proud that the University at Albany is a Saint Rose teach-out partner, enabling undergraduate education students to pursue their dreams of becoming teachers – ensuring the legacy of Saint Rose endures,” said Marcia White, President of the College of Saint Rose.


These new programs also received support from Questar III BOCES, Capital Region BOCES, numerous local superintendents and educational organizations, building up to the eventual stamp of approval by the New York State Department of Education.


There is an already existent graduate level education program at UA, to which there is adequate staff to run the undergraduate programs. At the graduate level, UAlbany’s School of Education offers around two dozen master’s and doctoral programs, nine certificates and about a dozen microcredentials, serving as a main channel for grades P-12 and higher education leaders across New York.


“The School of Education has strong and long standing relationships with P-12 partners, which will bring about rich field experiences and opportunities as we address critical teacher shortages with these new programs. As a research institution, our faculty and staff bring expert knowledge in teacher preparation, particularly in areas of early childhood, literacy, special education and secondary content areas. We look forward to collaborating with Saint Rose faculty to transition students and to opening new pathways for current UAlbany undergraduate students interested in teaching,” said Virginia Goatley, UAlbany Dean of The School of Education


These new education programs are intended to run long-term – far after Saint Rose students have graduated. There is a chance that, if there is a surplus of students enrolling for the fall, some Saint Rose Professors may be hired, as said by UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez. 


The conversation surrounding the implementation of new undergraduate education programs has also shed light on what the future holds for UAlbany amidst Saint Rose’s closure. President Rodriguez has expressed interest in facilities on the Saint Rose campus, which congregate in the middle of downtown Albany.


Rodriguez has stated that UAlbany is not operating at proper capacity. Dorms located at the uptown campus are full, and are being faced with a growing demand


“Particularly after COVID, more and more students want to reside on campus,” said Rodriguez. “This is being seen primarily amongst juniors and seniors who usually preferred apartments, but now want to stay on campus.” Rodriguez recognized this as a good thing, saying that students who live on campus have the tendency to graduate on time.


Looking at the big picture, new undergraduate education programs will ensure that the high demand for teachers is met with proper supply, allowing already prospering education majors to finish what they started and contribute to society. UAlbany will utilize its original foundation while simultaneously looking towards future plans, both actions being taken to hopefully benefit students and the overall campus community.

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