College of LAS to develop bachelor's degree completion program and master's in data science

Initiatives will receive funding through Investment for Growth program
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The College of LAS will offer a bachelor's degree completion program and master's degree in data science, to be funded by the U of I's Investment for Growth program. 

The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences has received funding from the University of Illinois Investment for Growth program to explore development of an online bachelor’s degree completion program and a master’s degree in data science.

The two projects are among 10 proposals campuswide that will receive a total of $14.2 million over the next three years. It’s the fourth round of funding for the Investment for Growth program, which is intended for projects that advance the university’s mission, address areas of high and emerging student demand, and generate revenue.

This marks the first round of Investment for Growth funding since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We are proud to provide central support to encourage colleges to dream big, think differently and take risks,” the Office of the Provost said in an announcement.

The online Bachelor of Liberal Studies program is intended for students who have started, but not completed, a four-year undergraduate degree. The fully online and non-residential program will be designed to accommodate those who have completed an associate degree and want to further their education.

One goal behind developing the BLS option is to provide an alternative path for historically marginalized students to re-enroll and obtain a four-year degree. The degree could also serve non-traditional students who, while older and motivated to re-start their education, cannot relocate to campus because they are juggling multiple competing responsibilities, such as working full-time and/or caring for children or aging parents. 

The Master in Data Science (MDS) program is being built upon already strong course offerings and collaboration among the Department of Statistics, the Department of Computer Science, and the iSchool. The new program puts the University of Illinois in great position to offer a highly competitive program and capitalize on the enormous demand for graduate education in data science.

The MDS program is expected to benefit the campus in multiple ways. Such a master’s program provides a timely platform for undergraduate students to continue into graduate school and deepen their knowledge in data science. It also equips students in many disciplines with skills and knowledge to conduct cutting-edge research involving data science.

A strong emphasis of the program will be inclusion of students from underrepresented populations. The MDS program will be designed to ensure the inclusion and success of these underrepresented groups.

“We’re excited that these two important proposals have received funding through the Investment for Growth program, and we’re committed to their success,” said Venetria K. Patton, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS. “The Bachelor of Liberal Studies program provides a viable path to a fully accredited bachelor’s degree for students who were unable to complete their degree as originally planned. The master in data science program expands our offerings in a dramatically growing field. Together, these programs are making the future brighter for our students and the University of Illinois.”

Since the Investment for Growth program was created in 2018, the University of Illinois has invested more than $78 million to provide seed funding for projects such as these. The latest round of funding included several other new online programs across campus that expand access and equity for non-traditional students.

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Office of the Provost and Dave Evensen