University of Mary Launches Online Elementary Education Degree

Teach and students in a class discussion

Scholarships are available for eligible students who enroll for the start of the Fall 2022 semester

BISMARCK, ND — While school districts across North Dakota and the country are struggling to find teachers, small, rural towns especially are grappling with the shortage. When teachers can’t be recruited to stay and serve in small communities, not only does the school struggle to function and suffer, but so does the viability and vitality of the town. Furthermore, hardships occur to families and towns as graduating high schoolers or professionals wanting to change careers and become teachers, leave their rural communities for bigger cities to get a teaching degree at a college or university. To support rural community schools in retaining their talent pool, the University of Mary is meeting potential first-through-eighth-grade teacher candidates where they are — in their own rural hometowns — and offering them the opportunity to stay there and get a full, comprehensive elementary education degree online.

“With our new online elementary education degree, we are trying to support our rural communities,” explained Dr. Loni Miller, elementary education program director in the Liffrig Family School of Education and Behavioral Sciences (LFSEBS) at the University of Mary. “On one hand we are helping to lessen the teacher shortage in rural North Dakota, the region, and beyond by recruiting more teachers. On the other hand, by allowing potential future teachers to take all their elementary education courses remotely they can continue to live in their rural town and provide economic stability to make their community stronger. Learning locally is a real win-win for North Dakota and beyond.” 

The online elementary education program is unique because it mirrors the in-person format, even allowing students the option of taking courses as part of University of Mary’s one-of-a-kind Year-Round Campus (YRC) format. Those who elect this option will take eight continuous semesters with short breaks in between so they can graduate in 2.6 years instead of four years — proven to save time and money.

The University of Mary was the only school in the North Dakota to recently be awarded a grant from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) worth $575,000 that will go towards scholarships for eligible students.

“Not only is this degree perfect for those who want to start their careers in teaching, but also para-professionals who may currently be under the supervision of a teacher like a teacher’s assistant or substitute teacher,” added Dr. Meghan Salyers, director of student teaching in the LFSEBS at the University of Mary. “Students who enter the program will be given the opportunity to student-teach in their community’s elementary school. Students can choose to start their online degree process any semester — fall, winter, or summer — and could be eligible to apply prior learning credits.”

The University of Mary undergraduate elementary education program continues to excel with a 100-percent employment rate.

The University of Mary is fulfilling the dream set forth by its founders and sponsors the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery. The private, Catholic university in Bismarck continues to carry out the Sisters’ mission as it serves the needs of the region and beyond by offering a complete and comprehensive elementary education online degree.

Anyone interested can visit to learn more or contact Jennifer Barry at, or (701) 355-8372. For further details on how to apply visit

About the University of Mary 

True to its motto “lumen vitae” — The Light of Life — the University of Mary offers education for the whole of life through cutting-edge professional programs and graduate programs animated by moral courage and leadership in chosen professions and service to the community. A private, co-educational Catholic institution, the University of Mary welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds.

A Christian, Catholic, Benedictine institution founded in 1959 by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, Mary offers nearly 60 bachelor’s, 15 master’s, and five doctoral programs — in business administration, education, nursing practice, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. The 19-sport Athletic Department adheres to its Greatness Through Virtue mission under the governance of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) conferences. With more than 3,800 students, Mary has locations in North Dakota, Montana, Arizona, and Rome, Italy, as well as vibrant online offerings.

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