Fewer Students Graduate With Arizona Education Degrees

Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2016 - 7:37am
Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2016 - 10:30am

Of all the undergraduate degrees awarded by Arizona’s public universities, those for education saw the biggest drop of any academic major in the last decade.

The Arizona Board of Regents Academic and Student Affairs committee’s annual report on degrees and majors found 587 fewer students attained education bachelor’s degrees in the 2015-2016 school year than in 2007-2008.

At the same time, the universities have increased the number of bachelor's degrees awarded by 49 percent.

“The tough news is that going into a career in education is, as it has long been, a tough sell for a number of reasons,” said Paul Gediman, the ASU Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College marketing director.

Gediman said higher education is one factor in the state’s ongoing teacher shortage.

“We can’t produce enough teachers as fast as schools are losing them and that’s been true for a long time and not just in Arizona,” Gediman said.

Arizona Education Association Vice President Marisol Garcia said new educators have it tough in the state.

“They’re coming into a system that is not funded, A, but they’re also coming into a system that has really high expectations,” said Garcia, who is also an 8th grade teacher in Phoenix’s Isaac School District.

Arizona teacher salaries lag behind other states. A report from Arizona’s Auditor General found the average teacher salary, adjusted for inflation, dropped 8 percent in the last decade.

At the same time, class sizes got larger.

Arizona also spends the fewest dollars per student than every other state, found a survey from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2015.

Garcia said in addition to teaching students how to be educators, higher education institutions need to advocate for change in how the state funds public education.

“We need to work collectively to express to the governor and to our elected officials that funding public education K-12 and also higher ed fully will allow our teachers to walk into the classroom without that burden of debt,” Garcia said.

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