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New Report Details Financial Challenges for Teacher Candidates

Plus and minus graphicEvery institution knows that affordability is an important factor in attracting candidates into teacher preparation programs. During the 2019-20 school year, Prepared To Teach at Bank Street College conducted a survey of more than 1,200 aspiring teachers at 12 institutions across seven states to understand their financial situations. Our first report on the survey findings, #MoreLearningLessDebt: Voices of Aspiring Teachers on Why Money Matters, unpacks the financial anxiety felt by so many aspiring teachers and makes recommendations to alleviate that anxiety through research, practice, and policy.

Prepared To Teach started this project to fill an important gap in the knowledge base about aspiring teachers—the reality of their financial situations, anxieties, and choices during preparation. Ultimately, the field needs to understand how strong preparation that includes extended clinical practice might interact with teacher candidates’ financial situations. We know that financial concerns can deter would-be teachers from enrolling in great preparation programs that include strong clinical practice components, which in turn affects the quality and diversity of the teaching workforce. The survey results confirm the powerful impact of financial concerns on aspiring teachers’ choices. As one aspiring teacher shared, “If the financial constraints were lifted, I believe we would see the diversity that we desperately need in education.” Now, after gathering in-depth data on aspiring teachers’ finances, we’re on our way to understanding how we build supports into preparation programs to recruit and retain great teachers, no matter their financial situations.

Among the findings are these:

  • A full 85% of graduate students and 76% of undergraduate students indicate that they worry ‘Very Frequently’ or ‘Frequently’ about their financial situations.
  • More than 60% of candidates indicated that they need to work to support themselves while engaged in full time clinical placements; a third of those work multiple jobs.
  • The day-to-day financial reality for a majority of respondents appears precarious. Asked to indicate the level of difficulty they would have in dealing with unexpected expenses, a majority suggest an inability to handle an expense above $250.
  • An overwhelming number of candidates are able to make only minimum payments on credit card bills, and must often choose between basic expenses.
  • Over 50% indicated they had taken out loans to support themselves during their year engaged in clinical practice. For those with debt, undergraduate loan debt averages $30,000; graduate debt averages $63,000.
  • When asked to what extent candidates worried about expenses, living expenses ranked higher than tuition costs.

The #MoreLearningLessDebt report also highlights potential changes in research, practice, and policy that will benefit aspiring teachers and especially impact those from underrepresented backgrounds, including:

  • Incorporating aspiring teachers’ financial realities into teacher preparation research,
  • Building partnerships between districts and preparation programs that design roles for aspiring teachers that align to program learning goals and include compensation, and
  • Establishing federal non-competitive grants, with quality assurance requirements, so states can support aspiring teachers through high-quality teacher residency pathways.

Prepared To Teach continues to advocate for these and other productive changes in the teacher preparation system, all with the goal of ensuring that everyone who wants to become a teacher can afford to attend a high-quality preparation program. In addition to #MoreLearningLessDebt, our project will release seven additional reports in the coming weeks, all focused on transforming the preparation landscape into a more affordable, sustainable sector—including a suite of tools to support the creation of financially sustainable teacher residencies.

We welcome AACTE members as an important voice in our growing policy efforts. Please let us know your thoughts, share the resources, and follow us on Twitter at @PreparedToTeach. Watch for more information about the release of new resources and informational webinars in early April. You can also view our current resources and sign up for our mailing list at bankstreet.edu/prepared-to-teach.

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