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September 01, 2022
Campus News – University of the Southwest Partners with Lea County School Districts to Address Teacher Shortage

The University of the Southwest (USW) Interim President Dr. Ryan Tipton and Dean for the College of Education Dr. Laura Hunt were joined by Lea County educators to sign an MOU to provide undergraduate teacher preparation education at no cost to school district employees during a special enrollment period for 2022-2023.

In a collaborative effort to bridge the teacher shortage gap and ensure high-quality professionals in the classroom - Superintendents from Jal, Tatum, Eunice, Hobbs, and Lovington partnered with USW and community leaders from REC 7 Office and J F Maddox Foundation to provide a pathway for school district employees to earn a Bachelor of Science in Education or Master of Science in Education.

In response to feedback from the USW College of Education educator preparation program Advisory Board, input from district stakeholder surveys and focus groups, the university faculty developed and launched the New Experienced Teachers + Program (NExT+ Program). The program's primary goal is to help fill the teacher vacancy gap with day-one-ready educators and meet the evolving P-12 student needs and school district conditions.

The NExT+ program is an educational program that allows experienced educational assistants to take the “next step” in becoming certified educators by providing professional learning credit toward an undergraduate degree in preparation for a teacher license. Candidates may obtain up to 30 credits based on prior learning experiences that align with course learning outcomes. Prior learning is knowledge acquired through work, professional development training programs, independent study, volunteering, or community service. The NExT+ program uses the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) Standards for assessing learning.

The USW and Lea County School District MOU also provides a tuition discount to attain a Master of Science in Education. Dr. Hunt stated, “As a native Lea County resident and USW alumna, I am incredibly grateful to help bridge the gap between the university and the community as we work to fulfill the mission of USW and meet the educational needs of local stakeholders.” For additional program information, please contact USW at (575) 492-2149.