Number of Education Majors Sees Large Decline

by Alex Braun ‘23

The problem of teacher shortages across the country was magnified by the large number of teachers quitting or retiring early because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the lack of teachers will continue as a result of decreasing enrollment in teacher preparation programs.

A report published by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) in Spring of 2022 found that between the 2008-2009 school year and 2018-2019 school year, the number of students enrolled in teacher education programs nationwide dropped by more than a third. The study found that in the 2018-2019 school year, fewer than 90,000 undergraduate degrees in education were granted.

The AACTE report specifies which subject areas are being hit the hardest by the decline in students in teaching programs and reported that there is a 4-percent decrease in special education training, a 27-percent decrease in scientific and math training, and a 44-percent reduction in world language training.

The decline has only gotten worse since the pandemic hit. Prospective educators have been scared off by the challenges that teachers have faced since the pandemic struck, as well as by an increasingly hostile political and cultural environment towards public education. One of the more obvious factors that affect how many people choose to pursue education is the salary. An analysis by the Economic Policy Institute found that on average teachers earn 23.5 percent less than comparable college graduates. Even with the many benefits that come with a teaching profession, like union support, health insurance, and retirement plans, the wage gap is simply too much for many prospective educators.