Future educators drop in enrollmen

By Elizabeth zinchuk

Several state universities have seen teaching program enrollment declines, and officials say the economy, as well as elements of the profession, may be to blame.

Illinois State University has seen a nearly 13 percent decline in new teacher education students, according to an article in The Republic. ISU’s College of Education had 681 new students in summer and fall 2008, and that number fell to 594 at the same time in 2012, according to the article. SIU has similarly seen a decline in its College of Education and Human Services enrollment, and administrators and students studying to be teachers differed in opinions on why the decline exists.

Amee Adkins, ISU College of Education associate dean, said the drop is a statewide trend.


“I can say that ISU is not the only one seeing this decline,” she said. When I talk to my colleagues in other colleges of teacher education, I am hearing very similar stories.”

The university’s College of Education and Human services has decreased 14.2 percent from 2,868 enrolled in 2008 to 2,459 in 2012, according to SIU’s institutional research fact book.

Adkins said the decline started in 2008, and she believes it is tied with the economic downturn.

“We are still seeing the numbers, so that tells us it is something bigger,” she said. “I think it is probably the combination of factors.”

The economy, negative student opinion on teaching salaries, conversations within state legislature regarding education reform and endangered teacher pensions are all factors that contribute to the decline, Adkins said.

Teachers also face increasing responsibility to show student success through standardized testing, she said, but the economy has not made the profession any easier.

“I don’t think it is harder to be a teacher because of the economy, but it might be because of the accountability pressures,” she said. “The testing requirements and showing impact on student learning through those tests can be challenging.”


While Adkins said the trend runs statewide, Jerry Becker, a curriculum and instruction professor who instructs math education students, disagreed. Becker said he has seen other teacher education programs besides ISU and SIU that have seen increases.

“This last week I was up at Eastern Illinois University and people there in the math education (division) of the teacher education program said the university already has 5,000 applications for the fall and they won’t (admit) 5,000,” Becker said. “Enrollment there seems to be up considerably.”

However, Becker said high tuition can often interfere with student desire to pursue teaching. Dealing with entitled students doesn’t make the job any easier either, he said.

“They have to put up with students that maybe aren’t so serious about studying and parents who think that their students are right about everything,” Becker said. “Sometimes the parents more or less consider teachers as babysitters, which doesn’t fit with what teachers are there for.”

Besides issues with students and parents, teacher salaries are not always the most desirable, Becker said, which makes students question their attraction to the profession.

Adkins said there might be an overall decline in interest, but parents may be talking their students out of the career.

“People are still very much interested in being teachers, and we need to talk more positively about the rewards and the opportunities so they follow that,” she said.

Student opinion on the profession echoed the concerns officials raised.

Ricki Gary, a sophomore from Chicago studying education, said teachers face a stigma that they receive lower incomes.

“I think everyone thinks teachers don’t make a lot of money,” Gary said. “A lot of people think, ‘Why would I want to be a teacher?’”

Antresa Lumpkin, a junior from Chicago studying education, said she worries about the amount of jobs available for teachers. However, she said she finds the profession rewarding.

“I like children, and I think I could inspire them by being a teacher and promote education in what is important,” Lumpkin said.

Gary said teaching’s pros outweigh the cons.

“Despite the money problem, I feel like the best job for me to help people is to be a teacher,” he said.