This fall, San José State University introduced a new opportunity for undergraduate students — an accelerated track to earning a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at the same time.
The new Spartan Accelerated Graduate Education (SAGE) Programs allow students to pursue the two degrees simultaneously by earning graduate credit while in their junior and/or senior year. This reduces the number of semesters required for completion of a master’s degree and saves students time and money in the process.
Students may apply to become SAGE Scholars once they complete half of their undergraduate coursework or 60 credits. Currently, SJSU has announced 11 of these combined bachelor’s and master’s programs: 10 beginning in fall (three in engineering and seven in education) and one additional program, biomedical engineering, starting in spring 2022.
“We’re providing a smooth pathway for students to transition from undergraduate to graduate education and the ultimate goal of achieving both degrees,” said Marc d’Alarcao, dean of the College of Graduate Studies.
The SAGE programs also eliminate the need for students to apply for graduate programs — a sometimes lengthy process that includes costly application fees and GRE/GMAT tests, which add additional time to prepare for and take when required.
“A big advantage of [SAGE Programs] is that we could be breaking down some of the barriers in place that are just enough to keep a student from considering this graduate degree,” said Thalia Anagnos, vice provost of undergraduate education. “This opportunity ultimately will help them achieve higher goals than they might have if they just earned an undergraduate degree.”
Susan Verducci, a professor and advisor who helps departments who prepare teachers create these programs, expressed similar thoughts: “SAGE programs are designed to reduce hurdles to graduate studies, including an advisor-supported transition between undergraduate and graduate work and a decrease in the time it takes to earn a master’s degree.”
“When you think about applying for almost any graduate program through the regular channels, you need to plan three to six months to a year in advance,” added Anagnos. “Students can complete the [SAGE application] process relatively quickly, making the decision to pursue a graduate degree easier for them.”
The seven SAGE programs in education also provide the opportunity for students to concurrently satisfy the requirements needed for a teaching credential. According to d’Alarcao, this could benefit new teachers by boosting their starting salaries.
“Getting a credential, which they need in order to teach, and a master’s degree at the same time may help them get a higher salary when they’re starting out, which is a value proposition that students will likely appreciate,” he explained.
The SAGE Programs have been designed to be as easy for students to navigate as possible. Each individual program has its own useful roadmap, outlining the required courses and the order in which they need to be taken for a successful transition between undergraduate and graduate status. This is especially important because students begin their graduate work while they are still technically undergraduates.
“SAGE programs can be highly valuable for students who know early on that they want to earn a master’s in their field of study,” adds Verducci. “The programs provide students with an integrative and cohesive educational experience toward their professional goals by allowing them to take carefully sequenced master’s-level courses as undergraduates.”
Behind the scenes of the SAGE Programs is Jeffrey Honda, associate dean of graduate programs. He’s been working with departments across campus to build the program sequences during the pandemic. The programs go through vigorous approvals from department to college to university committees, and eventually the California State University’s chancellor’s office, before they are given the green light.
According to Honda, there are a number of other colleges at SJSU that are interested in offering their own SAGE Programs to students. The next ones could be from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, he explained. Four of them are currently under review by Honda and their stakeholders.
In 2019, the College of Graduate Studies launched with a mission to develop a variety of new, independent programs, including expanding doctoral program offerings and now the SAGE Programs, which are providing additional pathways to graduate education for students.
Dean d’Alarcao is excited by the potential of the SAGE Programs and what they can do for students. “This is part of a constellation of things that we’re doing to overall strengthen the access to graduate education,” he said.
“I hope we will continue to get additional SAGE Programs developed, so we have a broad menu of these opportunities in a lot of different disciplinary areas. By virtue of having these programs, I believe more of our undergraduates will seek that graduate degree before going into the workforce.”
That is something all Spartans can be proud of.
See the SAGE Program flyer for more information.