Enrollment in the university’s College of Education, which certifies the most teachers in the state, has dropped this year amidst reports of widespread job cuts and low wages.
There was an approximately five percent drop in enrollment in Texas State’s College of Education from spring 2011 to spring 2012. In addition to the drop, fall enrollment has also slowed. The college has typically grown by hundreds of students from fall to fall, but enrollment increased by only 13 students from fall 2011 to fall 2012.
Officials from the college say there are a few factors that could be causing the enrollment decrease.
Dean Stan Carpenter said the college has recently raised its GPA requirement from the state minimum of 2.5 to 2.75, which could have disqualified some students from being admitted. Carpenter said the media attention given to education budget cuts in the recent legislative session may have also discouraged students from seeking an education degree.
Carpenter said this was seen in April 2011 when the Austin Independent School District laid off approximately 800 teachers. He said the district hired back about 650 of those teachers this August, but students were only hearing reports of the job cuts, not those of teachers being rehired.
Patrice Werner, chair of the department of curriculum and instruction, said this is the first year a drop in enrollment in the college has been noticeable.
Werner said students want to major in a field where they know a job will be found upon graduation, so the recent media attention given to education job cuts may have discouraged students.
However, the drop in enrollment is not entirely a bad thing, Werner said.
“We feel like we had grown a little bit too much, so now (enrollment) is leveling off to a point that is more sustainable for us,” Werner said. “So it is not necessarily a terrible thing for us.”
Carpenter said about 40 percent of educators are more than 55 years old. Those teachers would typically retire in the next 10 years, but they are tending to hold on to their jobs longer, taking away more positions for aspiring educators, he said.
Carpenter said he understands why some students may not want to major or seek a career in education.
“Our students are rational creatures,” Carpenter said. “There are going to be fewer jobs and they pay less. That’s not a great combination, so I really think there was some damage done.”
In effort to increase enrollment, Werner said the college is advising students to pick certifications in areas that are desperately needed, such as special education, bilingual education and the math and science fields.
Some students, in spite of reports of job cuts, are still actively pursuing a career in education. Earnest Buckley, political science senior, finds the call to educate more powerful than any fear about not finding a job.
“If people are basing whether they are going to be a teacher or not on that then I think that’s a good thing,” Buckley said. “We’ve weeded out some of those teachers who are probably going to end up being complacent in the profession and aren’t going to teach this sort of lifelong efficacy — which is what we need in teachers.”