A new Fresno State Visalia Campus program will allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies and a multiple subject teaching credential in four years without having to leave the South Valley.

The Integrated Teacher Education Program (ITEP) addresses a critical need for qualified teachers committed to South Valley schools.

Previously, college students pursuing an evidence-based teacher education program needed to travel an hour or more to Fresno from their communities in the South Valley for coursework at Fresno State several times per week.

One of the largest barriers for young adults in the South Valley to pursue higher education is transportation. Students in communities such as Lemoore, Lindsay, Porterville and Woodlake travel over an hour one way to take classes at the University.

The new program allows future teachers in the South Valley to complete their first two years of college work in an aligned program at one of three partnered community colleges: College of the Sequoias, Porterville College or West Hills College-Lemoore.

Students then transfer to Fresno State and complete their remaining coursework in an accelerated two-year program at the Fresno State Visalia Campus. Because of the streamlined program aligned with the community colleges, students will be able to complete their bachelor’s degree and teaching credential in a total of four years, as opposed to the traditional five-and-a-half year pathway.

“Geographically, it is a huge benefit for our students,” said Stan Carrizosa, former president of College of the Sequoias. “If we can get higher education closer to our students and take out the transportation barrier, we would have more students accessing higher ed. It’s shown the College of the Sequoias students that they are going to have an opportunity, a real opportunity now, to a four-year Fresno State degree right here in the South Valley.”

Students in the program will learn how to teach through experiences at schools in their home communities.

“The need for teachers in the South Valley is tremendous,” said Doug Cardoza, human resources director for Visalia Unified School District. “Because of the growth, we’re increasing in the number of students and the number of teachers needed in the Valley. … It’s nice that Fresno State is bringing this program locally for us to keep our local kids at home and give us an opportunity to hire them. It will help tremendously.”