The program that scored 10 times more students than leaders expected

Where there's employer demand, there's opportunity for colleges

Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder benefit from working with teachers with specific training in applied behavioral analysis.

But compared with the one in 68 children diagnosed with autism, these specially trained instructors are few and far between.

Six years ago, Ball State University (BSU) saw the high demand for these teachers and decided to do something about it. BSU added a master's degree for applied behavioral analysis to its Teachers College.

BSU officials wanted to make the degree as accessible as possible, so as to help bridge the major gap between the number of children with autism and the number of teachers qualified to educate them. Thus they decided to make it an online-only program.

BSU officials initially estimated that roughly 150 students would enroll in the program, but the demand has far exceeded expectations. There are currently 1,607 students getting their master's degrees in applied behavioral analysis at BSU. The program has shattered BSU's enrollment records, and has grown each year.

10 ways to grow enrollment and support students in online programs

To graduate from the program, students must complete 1,500 hours of field work—for example, in a school, mental health center, or hospital—in addition to the online curriculum, and then take a final exam to receive board certification.

Employers say the jobs are there, but the skills are not

According to John Jacobson, the dean of BSU's Teachers College, the online-only factor is a huge part of the program's success.

"Online education basically allows us to be a campus for the world, not just a campus [regionally]," Jacobson explains.

Students thousands of miles away are able to enroll in the program without moving or making significant changes to their lives—and since the employer demand for degrees in the field is so high, students can expect competitive salaries upon completing the program.

5 misconceptions about online education

Other schools looking to take advantage of nationwide demand for a specific skill set might consider CareerCast's recent report on the top 10 jobs employers can't seem to fill:

  1. Data Scientist;
  2. Financial Advisor;
  3. General and Operations Manager;
  4. Home Health Aide;
  5. Information Security Analyst;
  6. Medical Services Manager;
  7. Physical Therapist;
  8. Registered Nurse;
  9. Software Engineer; and
  10. Truck Driver.

(Slabaugh, Indy Star, 3/21).

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