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 been no 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
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 our summary of chapter 10 of Transforming the Workforce; we encourage you to go to that summary for
key takeaways, examples, graphics, important quotations from the National
Academies’ volume, and more.