Job openings for teachers are at record levels in South Carolina, but the elementary education programs of at least two of South Carolina’s largest universities continue to attract more students.
While other collegiate education programs have seen fewer students in recent years, the College of Charleston had about 34 percent more students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree in elementary education this fall than in fall 2017. Clemson University’s program grew by 74 percent over the same period.
“This generation wants to make a difference – and what better way than to be a teacher to make a difference?” said Frances Welch, dean of the Charleston College of Education.
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College of Charleston has also increased enrollment in its elementary and early childhood education graduate programs, rising from 22 students in 2017 to 37 this fall.
Tracy Hunter Doniger, the school’s chair of teacher education, said the college hopes to attract more students with the new secondary education that began this school year.
So far nine students have enrolled in the minor. Classrooms include Creating Learning Environments, Neurodiversity: An Introduction to the Exceptional Learner, and Classroom and Behavior Management.
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“It’s about learning how to be a leader, learning how to be innovative and learning how to work with people,” said Hunter-Doniger.
An undergraduate elementary education degree wasn’t the only program seeing growth at Clemson. Most of the university’s undergraduate and graduate education programs have attracted more students in the past five years, increasing the number of students by about 300 students each.
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Enrollment figures for the various programs offered at the University of South Carolina College of Education could not be broken down by the time of publication. But Alexis Watts, a spokeswoman for the school, said USC’s school of education has also grown, with a 77 percent increase in freshmen over the previous year. The College of Education currently has about 2,000 students.
However, for some of South Carolina’s largest universities, there are fewer students pursuing degrees than many other educations. Total enrollment for all undergraduate and graduate degrees at the College of Charleston is down slightly from where it was five years ago, from 582 students to 553 students.
At Winthrop University, enrollment in the undergraduate elementary education program has fallen from 190 students in fall 2017 to 123 this year. No undergraduate program has seen an increase in enrollment in five years.
Postgraduate education programs also slightly declined in enrollment.
Overall, fewer graduates from South Carolina’s teacher education programs are joining the pool of new teachers hired in the state, according to a Center for Teacher Recruitment, Retention and Progress report released Nov. 17.
Just under 20 percent of the new hires this year were recent graduates from teacher education programs. In some years, these graduates accounted for as much as a third of new hires, Jennifer Jarrett, a CERRA researcher who compiled the report, told The Post and Courier earlier this month.
The decline in South Carolina alumni in teaching positions also comes at a time when the state’s K-12 schools have more jobs than ever recorded in the past two decades. The CERRA report tracked a 39 percent increase in openings for this school’s starting positions compared to the previous year.
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Follow Maura Turcotte on Twitter @mcturcotte.