GREENVILLE (February 16, 2022) – In a state with a growing population but a shortage of teachers, North Carolina’s state colleges and universities offer a new way to make college both more accessible and more affordable for would-be teachers.
NC Community College System President Thomas Stith III notes in the accompanying video that the Community College System signed an agreement with the UNC System in August to provide seamless transfers for aspiring teachers from 55 community colleges to UNC campuses.
Teacher candidates can earn a two-year associate’s degree in teacher preparation in arts or sciences, Stith says. Then they can transfer to a university in the UNC System to complete their teaching degree.
North Carolina saw a 30% decline in enrollment at UNC colleges of education during the last decade as the state also saw a surge in population to 10.4 million people. Stith says the aim is to provide more teachers for the children of both existing residents and newcomers.
“We want to ensure that we have excellent teachers in our classroom, and this agreement between our community colleges and our university system provides that pipeline for excellent teachers,” he says.
In a 2018 interview with Higher Ed Works, Peter Hans – then President of the Community College System, now President of the UNC System – noted that teachers have modest salaries.
But limiting their college debt should make it easier for new teachers to stay in their communities, Hans said, rather than migrate to the state’s metropolitan areas for better pay.
Dr. Lawrence Rouse, President of Pitt Community College, notes in another video that teacher-prep classes started at Pitt last fall. After two years at PCC, students can transfer to North Carolina’s public universities, and their community-college credits transfer as well, Rouse says.
“We’re hoping this will work to supply additional teachers in the teaching profession,” Rouse says.
“They can transfer to any state college or university in North Carolina, coming in as a junior with two years left to complete their teaching license degree,” says Melissa Rees, PCC’s Department Chair in Early Childhood Education “So we’re really excited for our students to take advantage of this program.”
Rouse takes it a step further and extends the recruitment of teacher candidates to local high schools.
“We’ve also reached out to our local superintendent – very interested in starting while they’re in high school to identify individual students who may be interested in becoming a teacher,” Rouse says.
“We’ll probably offer courses on the high school campus through Career & College Promise. So they can take those courses free of charge, then come to Pitt, complete that two-year teacher preparation, and then go on to one of our universities,” he says.
“We’re trying to address the teacher shortage as well, and kind of keeping that pipeline moving.”
Nikki Miller, an instructor and coordinator of Pitt’s Teacher Preparation Program, notes that teachers are vital in modern society.
“Teachers are the foundation for everything that we have and that we can become as citizens in America,” Miller says. “Without teachers, there could not be doctors or scientists or any other profession.
“We are in dire need, we are in desperate need, for individuals to join us in education – to become teachers in order to impact the next generation, to make this world the best place that we can possibly be,” she says.