According to the U.S. Department of Education, from the 2008-09 to 2016-17 school year, there was a 70% decrease in students majoring in K-12 education programs in Michigan.
This drop of interest in an education degree is connected to the negative perception that teaching has gained over the years as a profession. Teachers in Michigan have a salary that is 20% less, on average, than a different professional with the same degree.
“I wouldn’t want to be a teacher because they don’t get paid a lot of money,” said Olivier Ndengeye, a junior from Grand Rapids, Mich. “I feel like they don’t get valued enough, and it shows in the amount that they get paid.”
An education degree program prepares teachers with the knowledge and capability to handle a classroom of students of the grade-level and subject area they decide. Education degrees require students to take classes such as child and adolescent development and processes in learning and teaching in addition to student teaching, which get students ready to manage their future classroom.
Being a teacher comes with long eight hour days, not including extracurriculars or meetings that they may facilitate or need to attend outside of normal class hours. Teachers can also have added stress from the responsibility of managing a difficult student environment.
In 2013, the state of Michigan changed a required basic skills test because it was thought to be too easy. However, two-thirds of aspiring teachers failed. Before it was changed again, thousands of students chose to no longer pursue an education degree.
Although, at some colleges, like Central Michigan University, the number of students enrolled in education degree programs has slowly begun to increase, there has not been a great jump in numbers.
With decreasing enrollment in the wide majority of education degree programs, there is a rising possibility of K-12 teacher shortages in the near future. This makes the shortage of K-12 teachers not only a current problem, but a future problem as well.
“My mom was originally a music education major but realized that jobs were limited,” said Audrey Lewis, a junior from Marshall, Mich. “Then, she realized that she had a passion for special education. She wanted to be a positive influence in the special education system because it is very bad right now, so she just wants to make a difference where she can.”
Students that choose to pursue an education degree are the future for the education system and will educate individuals for the future.
“The teaching profession is underappreciated, people wouldn’t be where they are today without it,” said Lewis.