Although hiring freezes and budget cuts paint an unfavorable future for education majors in college, an alternate teaching certificate program just keeps growing.
The post-baccalaureate program at North Georgia College & State University gets students out of coursework and into their own classroom in one year, and the School of Education keeps seeing higher enrollment numbers.
Passion goes against the economy, said Barbara Dixon, alternate certification coordinator for the School of Education.
“These students (who have earned a bachelor’s degree) probably chose a different career for the first time in college, maybe for the money or because their parents told them to, and that wasn’t their passion,” she said. “Once they had their own children or got involved with the school system, they decided they love to teach and want to go back to school to be certified.”
By the end of this week, a new program will open up in partnership with the College of Coastal Georgia College of Education in Brunswick. The new section will give south Georgians an opportunity to start taking classes in July.
“This way, the program comes to them,” Dixon said. “Some students otherwise wouldn’t be able to pursue the certificate.”
The job opportunities aren’t shabby either.
Dixon said three recent graduates found jobs in their local counties — Fannin, Forsyth and Gwinnett — during the past week in middle school and high school math, science and special education.
The next participants in the program begin classes during the third week of July, and Gainesville students will meet at Chestatee Middle School on Tuesday evenings once a month while also taking classes online. The courses include curriculum and assessment, strategies for effective teaching, instructional and behavioral management, and a final internship of student-teaching in a local school.
Some students in traditional bachelor’s degree education programs are second-guessing their decisions at the University of Georgia’s School of Education.
“Some are starting to reconsider their commitment to education,” said Dean Arthur Horne. “I received an e-mail from a father of two grads who said both daughters have decided to leave education and that it’s not worth the hassle and stress.”
At North Georgia, the master’s program is seeing a drop in enrollment as well.
“The graduate level program was affected when the governor discussed not granting pay raises based on education level,” said Susan Brandenburg-Ayers, associate dean for North Georgia’s School of Education. “But our traditional undergraduate program numbers are climbing.”
The bachelor’s program is seeing an increase as students majoring in content areas — such as English or biology — are looking for a second major that makes them more employable, she said. Of the recently graduated class of about 80 students, 11 have found jobs so far for the fall. This is a huge contrast to previous years when 80 percent of the group received teaching contracts in the spring, but Brandenburg-Ayers hopes the statistics turn soon.
“A large percentage of Georgia’s teacher population is eligible for retirement. That cliff is approaching,” she said. “They may be hanging on now because of the economy, but it could be about 40 percent of teachers retiring in the next five years.”
For freshman starting traditional education programs this fall, the economic environment should change as they approach graduation, Dixon added.
“When they complete their degree, it could be a completely different picture,” she said.