The University of Arkansas at Little Rock is continuing its promise of making college more affordable and accessible with four early entry programs that offer an affordable fast track to earning a master’s degree.
“I am very excited that UA Little Rock Graduate School, in collaboration with the colleges, has created this new pathway via early entry programs for our undergraduate students to secure advanced degrees in less time and less cost,” said Dr. Abhijit Bhattacharyya, interim dean of the UA Little Rock Graduate School.
Beginning in the fall, master’s degrees will be available in public administration, information science, information quality, and construction management via early entry programs. Students who successfully complete one of these four programs can shave off almost a year from their studies by enrolling in the early entry program.
A key aspect of these fast-track programs is that students have the opportunity to take up to 12 course hours in classes that will count toward both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Students can enroll in an early entry program after they have earned 75 undergraduate hours and can begin taking dual-credit courses once they have earned 90 undergraduate hours.
To be accepted to an early entry program, applicants must have a minimum 3.2 GPA, must submit applications to the graduate program and the UA Little Rock Graduate School, and must complete an early entry program form.
As master’s degrees are becoming more commonplace in the workforce, earning a degree one year earlier allows students to save money on tuition, fees, and other educational expenses. They also can enter the workforce faster, while earning professional skills to get ahead in the workplace.
“These programs are going to save students a lot of time and money by fast-tracking their classes and degrees,” said Dr. Jerry Stevenson, coordinator of the Master of Public Administration Program.
Graduates of the Master of Public Administration program have found fulfilling jobs in key government positions and nonprofit organizations and also have launched successful careers as lawyers, educators, lobbyists, campaign consultants, and business executives.
“Many state, local, and government employees will be retiring over the next couple of years, so there is a lot of growth opportunity in the public sector,” Stevenson said. “The baby boomer generation is slowly retiring. It’s time for the other generations to get on board.”
With the information science and information quality early entry programs, students have the flexibility to work full time after earning their bachelor’s degree, since classes are offered in the classroom and online.
“These students don’t have to put their careers on hold,” said Dr. Elizabeth Pierce, chair of the Department of Information Science which hosts the information science and information quality graduate programs. “They can go into the workforce and still continue their master’s degree studies. This means they can get an early start in the workforce and get more professional experience than most students their age.”
The Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved the early entry programs in April. Plans for additional master’s degree programs are under way.
“The four programs are the tip of the iceberg—I expect more to come in the near future,” Bhattacharyya said.