One of the most persistent barriers for any student, and particularly first generation students is the cost of a college degree. Allegretto and Mishel (2016) note that while the cost for an education preparation program and licensure have both increased, salaries for teachers trail behind those of other college graduates by 17 percent. Even with the help of PELL and Oregon Opportunity grants, Oregon’s new teachers can graduate from their programs and start their careers with debt easily ranging between $20,000 to $50,000.
Currently the CEdO produces an annual Oregon Educator Equity Report and an annual Infographic documenting the state’s efforts to diversify the educator workforce to better mirror the demographics of the K-12 student population. Each year the Oregon Educator Equity Advisory Group develops recommendations and a work plan to support the state’s progress. As part of their preparation for the 2017 legislative session, Advisory Group members researched other states’ policies and conducted interviews to learn more about their respective state funded scholarships designed to support a more diverse educator workforce. The results were used to frame recommendations to the Governor’s Council on Educator Advancement. Dialogue with the HECC Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC) affirmed the ability of a program to be implemented in Oregon with state funding from the Legislature.
After reviewing data from the 2016 Educator Equity Report and the Advisory Group’s recommendations, the Governor’s Council on Educator Advancement included a key policy proposal related to diversifying the educator workforce within the Council’s ten recommendations presented to Governor Kate Brown in November 2016:
Council Recommendation 2: Streamline career pathways into teaching and provide financial resources and supports to achieve an educator workforce in Oregon that is equity-driven and more reflective of PK-12 student demographics.
With the passage of SB 182 in the 2017 legislative session, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission was authorized to award scholarships to racially and linguistically diverse teacher candidates enrolled in approved educator preparation providers, as defined in ORS 342.120, for the purpose of advancing the goal described in the Oregon Educator Equity Act. The legislation specified that the scholarships awarded under this section shall be in amounts of $5,000 each academic year, for a maximum of two academic years. Figure 1 shows an example of how such a two-year state scholarship will be leveraged in combination with PELL Grants, Oregon Opportunity Grants, and Oregon Promise (if applicable) to dramatically reduce student debt, especially when combined with university scholarships.
Figure 1. Proposed Financial Assistance Mechanism for Undergraduate Teacher Candidates
To date, based on a review of six other states that offer similar scholarships, the Oregon Teacher Scholars Program is being launched in January 2018 and designed to enhance the scholarships with navigation, supports and network that span each stage of a culturally and linguistically diverse candidate’s journey towards becoming an educator as illustrated in Figure 2.