Out Today: Putting Degrees Within Reach - Strategies for Financing Early Educator Degrees

In the face of high college costs, states and cities have begun thinking of creative ways to finance higher education for early educators.
Blog Post
Jan. 22, 2019

Our new brief, Putting Degrees Within Reach - Strategies for Financing Early Educator Degrees, examines strategies currently in use to assist early educators working to obtain a college degree and lists important things to consider when designing programs to help educators earn a degree. It is the second brief in a series that explores strategies to help address barriers educators face when pursuing higher education. The first brief, Ensuring a Smooth Pathway - Using Articulation Agreements to Help Early Childhood Educators Pursue A BA, explained the importance of articulation agreements for improving college access and completion for current and future early educators, discussed the most common types of agreements, explained why the agreements are difficult to establish and maintain, and gave examples of states that have recently established statewide agreements that are worthy of further study.

Both of these briefs are a follow-up to Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8, a 2015 report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine that explores the science of child development and its implications for professionals who work with young children. The most significant recommendation in the report was the call for a transition to a minimum bachelor’s degree qualification requirement for all lead teachers working with children from birth through age eight.

In order to unpack the complexities of this recommendation and its implications for teachers of three- and four-year-olds, New America and Bellwether Education Partners engaged the nation’s leading experts on early childhood teacher preparation in a discussion of what preparation for current and future early educators should look like and the potential of new, more accessible, and higher quality models for degree programs. In February 2018, we released a paper synthesizing our findings and elevating issues that need to be addressed to ensure that all pre-K teachers have the core knowledge and competencies needed to effectively teach three and four-year-olds.

The majority of early childhood professionals are poorly compensated for their important work, and wages remain low and stagnant. Child care workers across all settings earn an hourly median wage of $10.72, with pre-K teachers in all settings earning an hourly median wage of only $13.94, compared to $31.29 for kindergarten teachers. Early educators receive limited benefits that vary greatly by job title and setting and are frequently expected to complete work responsibilities outside paid hours.

In the face of high college costs and low teacher pay, some states and cities have begun thinking of creative ways to finance higher education for early educators through the use of scholarships. Some programs are national but are modified at the state level to fit certain local landscapes, while others are entirely “homegrown,” consisting of private and public partnerships that increase access to scholarships for early educators. All efforts, though, are important supports for early educators seeking higher education, including federal financing strategies, such as Pell Grants, that assist with the cost of college courses.

Read the full brief here. Our next brief will explore the registered apprenticeship model as an avenue for improving college access and completion among early educators.