NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin State University's online master's degree program in educational leadership was named the third best and among the most affordable online programs in the nation, according to a recent ranking by Educational Leadership Degree Programs, a website dedicated to helping students select the degree program that best suits their needs.

"It is a terrific honor to be recognized for the excellence and value that we've always known our program to have," said Dr. Barbara Qualls, assistant professor of secondary education and educational leadership and program coordinator at SFA.

Website editors based the rankings on specific criteria, including tuition, accreditation and size of the program. Site editors said SFA's program "bolsters Texas' status as the queen of online education leadership degrees."

SFA's nationally accredited program offers a 30-hour master's degree in educational leadership and an 18-hour principal certification. The program is administered completely online through Desire to Learn, the university's online course-delivery system.

Qualls said it is "essential to personalize the online experience with frequent communication, detailed and timely feedback, and respectful relationship building."

Additionally, students in the program experience interactive sessions with other students, real-time communication with professors and extensive use of electronic media such as video production through SFA's online program.

"Our students are the future of Texas' educational leadership. They deserve and receive the best and most consistent educational experience we can give them," Qualls said. "Most SFA students are full-time teachers while in the program; therefore, our faculty members allow them to work at their own pace and within their own schedule."

The program utilizes a scholar-practitioner approach incorporating theory and practice-based learning that focuses on research-based practices, curriculum and instructional leadership.

"The primary function of this program is to assist students in expansion of their self-perception as a leader and to retain the nurturing qualities of a teacher while building flexible and marketable leadership skills that can sustain lifelong learning," Qualls said. "Our graduates are leading campuses in all parts of Texas. Lumberjack principals are a gold standard for Texas educational leadership."

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