Tuition help offered to aspiring teachers

Courtesy photo

LANSING — Michigan will offer a $10,000 annual fellowship to 2,500 students as an incentive to teach in the state.

The awards, included in the state’s budget that began Oct. 1, are for college students on track to become educators and will be given to students once they are admitted into the college of education at their university.

Some universities have a two-year program, while other programs run three years, beyond prerequisites. Students who participate are required to teach in the state for two years for every year that they receive the fellowship. They cannot receive more than $30,000 in total.

Another incentive to address the state’s teacher shortfall in the 2023 budget is a $9,600 stipend for every semester a student teaches. Previously, student teachers were unpaid, although they are required to carry out some of the same classroom responsibilities as teachers.

Student teachers can apply for this stipend each semester that they teach. At Michigan State University, students are required to student teach for one year, but at other institutions students are only required for one semester, said Gail Richmond, the director of the teacher preparation program at MSU.

Nearly three-quarters of the state’s schools are short of teachers, according to a survey by the Michigan Education Association (MEA), the largest union representing teachers and other school staff.

Among the reasons for the shortage is that the joy of education has been taken away, said Paula Herbart, the president of the union. But the pay is a big reason.

“The lack of financial stability as an educator has caused the educator shortage,” Herbart said. “Three out of four educators will tell their children not to go into teaching, and that’s a real problem. We’re telling kids not to go into education because they can’t make a living at it, and because of the things that impact your ability to provide for your family.”

For minority students, it can be even harder, said Doug Pratt, the MEA’s director of public affairs.

“We know from student loan data entry, as well as practice, that there’s this double jeopardy of having to pay to be a student teacher and not getting paid which is especially hard for minority aspiring educators,” he said.

All student teachers should be compensated just like in any other apprenticeship program, but people might see it take away the barrier that exists, especially for minority students, he said.

The Michigan Department of Education reports that in 2017, Black teachers made up 5.9% of the state’s teachers. Hispanic or Latino teachers accounted for 1.2 and Asian-Americans made up only 0.2%. About 91% of teachers were white.

“I know most of my (classmates) that are doing the teacher preparation program have dropped out of it,” said Trinity Belcher, a fifth-year student in the MSU College of Education . “They don’t want to do their 5th year because the cost of it.”

Students in the college of education at MSU are required to pay for their internship as a student teacher, which can be a financial burden, Belcher said.

Belcher will finish the program and become a teacher because she says it would be better to have the experience of teaching for a year with a mentor before she starts teaching by herself.

Another incentive is the $175 million Grow-Your-Own program which assists school employees who already work with children, like bus drivers, crossing guards and lunch aides to get their degree to become educators.

Richmond said, “Teachers often feel isolated and unsupported, so I think the things that have to be combined with some kind of financial system is support from the time they step into the classroom, across their entire careers.”


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