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How Dual Enrollment and Community Colleges Can Help Close the Teacher Gap

Author: Dr. L. Andrea Brownlee

Affiliation: South Mountain Community College


The status of public education and the teaching profession are in jeopardy, which is no secret. Researchers at Brown University and the University at Albany[1] contend that the pandemic has merely fueled a fall in the appeal of the teaching profession. This has been occurring for more than ten years. The number of new teachers has fallen by one-third over the previous ten years, from 320,000 in 2006 to 215,000 in 2020. However, as I looked more closely at this study, I became acutely aware of the community college's suppressed voice. I know community colleges should be the center of attention at the federal and state levels to help save the teaching profession. In 2023, to help close the STEM career gap, the National Science Foundation was given by Congress over 10 billion dollars[2]. The teacher profession has an employment gap as well, but there are no federal initiatives to this magnitude to recruit and support teachers.


Arizona community colleges are welcoming many first-generation college students. These community colleges can serve as bridges between the teaching profession and the communities that need teachers (who look like their students). The lower tuition costs, more intimate class sizes, and equitable wrap around services are clear advantages of community colleges over universities. Community colleges excel at creating and providing dual enrollment credits to students when they are still in high school, in comparison to universities. This is the entry point from which we may start to address both the qualified teacher shortage and the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) teacher shortage as well. Here's an illustration of how community college dual enrollment might be used to inspire students to think about becoming teachers.


Saturday mornings are set aside for ACE (Achieving a College Education) programs at South Mountain Community College (SMCC). Several dual enrollment courses are taught such as SOC101, ENG101, or CRE101, but no EDU courses. What if ACE included education courses in its course catalog for high school students?


Currently, high school students who are considering a profession as a teacher are not privileged to take education courses in ACE. If EDU221 is successfully completed, the Social Behavior (SB) requirement for an associate degree will be met, and EDU230 will fulfill the Cultural (C) and Humanities (HU) requirement. Even if a student chooses not to become a teacher, they can still take these courses to complete requirements for another major. Students are not charged tuition for ACE courses.


So, at the end of the day, students will have earned college credits toward a community college degree, and the teaching profession can begin training future teachers while they are still in high school. Four community colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District will begin to offer bachelor's degrees in education in the fall of 2023. In MCCCD, the lower division cost per credit is $97, and the upper division cost is $145.50 per credit hour. Not including books and technology fees, in the MCCCD, a student can earn a teaching degree for less than $15,000. If students maximize the ACE dual enrollment experience, they can earn up to 24 credits for free, which is equivalent to $2,400 in tuition. The time has come to consider community colleges as a potential answer to the problem of Arizona's teacher recruitment, especially BIPOC teachers.

[1] https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/the-status-of-the-teaching-profession-is-at-a-50-year-low-what-can-we-do-about-it/2022/11 [2] https://www.usaspending.gov/agency/national-science-foundation#:~:text=Each%20year%20federal%20agencies%20receive,making%20financial%20promises%20called%20obligations%20.

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