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Claflin University announced Wednesday it will launch a master of science in criminal justice program in March.

All classes will be offered online, and students will be able to complete degree requirements within 15 months.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges approved the program, which will begin classes on March 12.

The first cohort of students is expected to earn degrees in May 2019.

The criminal justice master's program also addresses a national need for professionals with an advanced degree in the industry, according to Dr. Deborah Laufersweiler-Dwyer, Claflin's interim chair and associate professor in the Department of Social Sciences.

"This program is another major step for the university as we now offer a high-demand program that allows professionals in the field an opportunity to earn a master's degree in criminal justice at an accelerated pace," Laufersweiler-Dwyer said. "Students from throughout the state of South Carolina and beyond can enroll in the program with the confidence they are receiving a high-quality education."

In 2016, Claflin gained approval from the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements to promote and market its online programs in more than 40 states across the country.

The master of science in criminal justice program joins the master of education in curriculum and instruction and master of business of administration as fully online graduate programs.

Claflin's fully online bachelor's degree programs include degrees in organizational management, criminal justice and psychology. It also has its registered nurse to bachelor’s degree in nursing program.

"We have an impressive number of students who have been waiting eagerly for this program to begin," said Dr. Caroletta Ivey, assistant professor of criminal justice. "Many of these students and others who will enroll in the program are already working in criminal justice related positions. However, they need a master's degree to be eligible for promotions and other opportunities. Law enforcement, correctional agencies and the court are seeking employees with advanced degrees who can apply critical thinking when solving problems or making decisions."

"We are attracting students from Florida, Georgia and other states outside of South Carolina to our program," Ivey said. "The flexibility of our program is significant. Students can maintain their employment and manage their family responsibilities while taking classes from anywhere and anytime. That is very important."

Prospective students interested in registering may contact the Department of Social Sciences (dlaufersweiler-dwyer@claflin.edu/803-535-5896) or Mark Roberts, associate executive director for the Center for Professional and Continuing Studies (maroberts@claflin.edu/803-535-5573).

Contact Tonya A. Sanders-Govan (tsanders@claflin.edu/803-535-5384) for financial aid information.

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