Enrollment Down by a Third in Teacher Prep Programs

Enrollment in teacher preparation programs is on the decline. Research by the Center for American Progress found that enrollment in those programs has dropped by 35 percent between 2010 and 2018, even as enrollment in all bachelor degree programs has increased. Nine states saw "drastic" reductions of more than 50 percent (Oklahoma, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Illinois, Idaho, Indiana, New Mexico and Rhode Island). Only five states saw an increase over that period (Utah, Arizona, Washington, Texas and Nevada). The center is a nonpartisan policy institute that promotes improving the lives of all Americans.

The analysis used state data on teacher education program enrollment broken out by gender, race and ethnicity; entry and exit requirements for programs; completion numbers; and the subjects or certification areas in which enrollees were being prepared to teach; as well as other information.

According to researcher Lisette Partelow, senior director of K-12 strategic initiatives, not only are enrollments dropping, but program completion has also shrunk (by 27 percent). In four states, the dive in completion exceeded 50 percent. Just five states, along with the District of Columbia, saw increases.

Enrollment Down by a Third in Teacher Prep Programs

Enrollment in and completion of teacher preparation programs has decline between2010 and 2018. Source: "What To Make of Declining Enrollment in Teacher Preparation Programs," from the Center for American Progress

The only type of teacher prep program that saw an overall increase was the "alternative program," which, as Partelow pointed out, "can be run by for-profit companies and vary greatly in terms of timing, coursework and training." Those experienced a 42 percent increase.

Also, despite a rise in the number of Black and Latinx students enrolling in higher education, those choosing to pursue teaching degrees has also declined — 25 percent for Black students and 11 percent for Latinx students.

Special education and STEM were two areas where the shortages have been "persistent," the report noted. On the other hand, there was a 30 percent increase in teachers preparing to teach English as a second language or bilingual education.

What are the reasons for the change in enrollment and completion? The report suggested several factors at play: low salaries for teachers, less parental influence encouraging students to pursue that field, difficult working conditions and a lack of career pathways.

Federal and state policymakers could do more to turn around lack of interest in the teaching profession, the report asserted, including gathering and reporting more kinds of data on teacher prep programs and teacher labor markets; using that information to strengthen the programs and "modernize" the profession; and showing great skepticism in legislating favors for the for-profit, alternative certification options.

"Supporting teacher prep program enrollment and completion is critical for averting teacher shortages, particularly ahead of another recession and the potential for further divestment," said Partelow, in a statement. "This new report suggests that many states have a lot of work to achieve that goal and identify where they are falling short."

"What To Make of Declining Enrollment in Teacher Preparation Programs" is openly available on the Center for American Progress website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.