VERMILLION-Black Hills State University received approval Wednesday to start planning a master of arts in teaching degree for special education. The South Dakota Board of Regents gave the green light during a meeting at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.

Courses would be offered online and cover two years including one semester of student teaching. The program would start this fall if approved.

The application from BHSU President Tom Jackson cited federal statistics indicating shortages of special education teachers in 49 states including South Dakota. Associated School Boards of South Dakota data showed 60 percent of school districts in the state had unfilled special-education positions in the past three years.

BHSU would enroll 12 students annually. The Spearfish campus has tuition reciprocity with Wyoming. USD has a special education master of arts degree that has a broader scope.

Other universities in the region with master-level programs in special education are: Minnesota State University Moorhead, University of Minnesota in Minneapolis-St. Paul, St. Cloud State University, University of North Dakota at Grand Forks, and Minot State University, Montana State University at Bozeman and University of Wyoming at Laramie.