College of Education addresses Colorado teacher shortage in rural communities

September 6, 2017

Rachel Librach

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   UCCS professors will seek to educate students who are considering a career in teaching to combat the declining number of teaching applicants in the state.

   In July, a teacher shortage in Colorado was declared a crisis due to low pay, the cost of higher education and how people perceive teaching jobs, according to a July article by Fox 31 Denver.

    At UCCS, the number of graduates in the College of Education has declined significantly, according to Robert Mitchell, assistant professor of Leadership, Research and Foundations.

   “Five or six years ago, we had 3,200 [graduates]; this year we had 2,400, and this just keeps going down,” he said. “I expect next year’s probably going to be closer to 2,200.”

    Mitchell, who was previously the director of Educator Preparation in the Colorado Department of Higher Education, said that part of the shortage is because of a lack of interest in teaching careers; about 70 percent of those who do graduate with teaching credentials become educators.

    “If you look at the number of people who complete their degree and go into teaching, that’s only about 1,800 a year, and across the state, we have anywhere between 3,000 to 3,500 vacancies,” he said.

    Valerie Martin Conley, dean of the College of Education, views this crisis as an opportunity for UCCS to demonstrate its commitment and responsibility in its school programming. The shortage is a way to address the needs of students as well as stakeholders in the El Paso and Southern Colorado districts.

    Last fall, the College of Education introduced the Bachelor of Arts in Inclusive Elementary Education, a multi-credential program where students can become certified in both general and special education, along with their intended field of teaching.

    Lissanna Follari, director of the Inclusive Early Childhood Education program, said that the multi-credential aspect of the degree not only makes graduating students look more attractive to employers, but might also be the key in resolving the teacher shortage crisis.

    “Every student who graduates with multiple credentials are more prepared to fill whatever need the particular school they are interested in working in might have,” she said.

    “This allows them to feel more capable of applying to more positions and being qualified to do so, making them more attractive for any position within their licensure areas.”

    This year, 285 students are pursuing a BA and the Bachelor of Innovation in Inclusive Early Childhood Education in the College of Education, according to a report published by Mitchell the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

    “This is where we are seeing tremendous growth, and we believe that is a way that we are working to help address some of the needs in our area,” Conley said. “So, we are out in front of this and this does actually position UCCS as being responsive to our community needs.”

    Those who pursue teaching as a career may earn a lower salary, especially in rural areas, than those in other fields. An average teacher’s salary in the rural districts will be less than $28,000 a year, Mitchell said.

    Mitchell Follari said that rural counties in Colorado, such as Vilas, Lone Star and Montezuma-Cortez, are more affected by the shortage.

    “What we have noticed previously in rural areas is that it is such a challenge for the district to hire for all of those credentialed positions,” Follari said.

    “Having multi-credentials in a single candidate allows them to legitimately be able to successfully teach in all those different fields.”     

     For more information on the College of Education’s degree options, visit