For those who are already working in early education, gaining access to higher education to obtain a higher degree can be exceedingly difficult, especially for the B–5 workforce. Early educators working outside of the public school system are often paid debilitatingly low wages. Over the past 25 years, there has beenno meaningful change in the wages of those caring for and educating our youngest children. Many professionals in this field, especially those working with younger children, continue to earn poverty-level wages. Large disparities persist even when education levels are comparable.
It is not surprising, then, that the cost of higher education can be an additional source of stress. Grants and scholarships that take into account the full cost of pursuing higher education (tuition, books, lost income, etc.) can increase accessibility. T.E.A.C.H. scholarships have been a means of increasing access to higher education in many states and recipients are guaranteed small pay increases. Unfortunately, higher education requirements are not always coupled with meaningful increases in pay so it is important that students do not take on significant debt to pay for higher education.
Early educators also work long hours. Early educators working full-time may need to attend programs at night or on weekends. Online courses, when high-quality, can be a good option, especially for students who do not live close to IHEs offering early learning programs. Access to counselors and cohort models can provide students with the supports they need to succeed. Offering programs at community colleges and making it easier for students to transfer between schools, such as through articulation agreements, can also help educators overcome barriers to further education.
- Are your preparation programs designed to meet the needs of early childhood educators already in the workforce who wish to pursue higher education?
- What is your IHE doing to make higher education more accessible? Are there efforts underway to provide courses at alternate times to accommodate working students, to provide tuition breaks, and to take advantage of the fact that many early educators are already working with young children every day?
This synopsis was drawn from oursummary of chapter 10ofTransforming the Workforce; we encourage you to go to that summary for key takeaways, examples, graphics, important quotations from the National Academies’ volume, and more.