What To Make of Declining Enrollment in Teacher Preparation Programs

Since 2010, the total enrollment nationwide in teacher preparation programs has declined by more than one-third; this decline has occurred in the context of increasing enrollment in bachelor’s degree programs nationwide over the same time period. This means that across the country, approximately 340,000 fewer students elected to enroll in teacher preparation programs in the 2016-17 academic year—the latest year for which data are available—compared with the number of students who enrolled in 2008-09. Similarly, there was a 28 percent decline in the number of students completing teacher preparation programs in the same years.

However, these national figures tell a limited story. Teacher labor markets are hyperlocal, with most teachers choosing to work within 15 miles of their hometowns. By examining state-by-state and even institution-by-institution information, policymakers can go beyond top-line national numbers to learn more about the trends in enrollment in each state. As Congress considers reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA) in the coming months, policymakers should add reporting requirements that would enable them to better understand declining enrollment in preparation programs and teacher labor markets more broadly.

A new report by the Center for American Progress provides a thorough and localized descriptive analysis of teacher preparation enrollment and completion trends and proposes that policymakers collect and analyze more data in order to pursue more targeted, informed policy solutions. The key findings of this analysis are as follows:

  • Nationally, there were more than one-third fewer students enrolling in teacher preparation programs in 2018 than in 2010. Nearly every state in the nation has experienced declining enrollment in teacher preparation, with some states experiencing drastic declines of more than 50 percent.
  • From 2010 through 2018, there was a 28 percent decline in students completing teacher preparation programs. Data on individuals completing teacher preparation programs reveal that from 2003 through 2013, there were more than 200,000 students completing teacher preparation programs; in 2018, however, fewer than 160,000 students completed such programs.
  • Contrary to the overall decline in enrollment in other types of preparation programs, alternative preparation programs that are not based at IHEs experienced an increase of more than 40 percent in enrollment between 2010 and 2018. Increasing enrollment in this type of program drove a slight uptick in national enrollment between 2016 and 2018.
  • Disaggregating enrollment data by race and ethnicity shows that one-quarter fewer Black and Latinx teacher candidates were enrolled in teacher preparation programs in 2018 than in 2010. Enrollment declined by more than half for those who identified as Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders and American Indian or Alaska Native.
  • When looking at enrollment by gender, the national percentage declines in enrollment were similar for male and female candidates, although the decline was steeper for men in most states.
  • Programs for subjects with persistent teacher shortages, such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and special education, experienced declines in completion from 2012 to 2018. However, these declines were lower than the national decline in completers during the same time period. Notably, there was a 30 percent increase in completers who earned credentials for teaching English-language learners or bilingual education.
  • At the national level, it remains difficult to estimate whether the total number of teacher preparation program completers is enough to fill the current need for new teachers. This is even more difficult to determine on a state-by-state basis due to the insufficient data currently collected.

These findings identify several specific and troubling trends that policymakers must address. They also demonstrate that there is still much to understand about certain aspects of teacher preparation programs. 

For more, see: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/reports/2019/12/03/477311/make-declining-enrollment-teacher-preparation-programs/