Although the College of Education at Purdue University has the second-lowest undergraduate enrollment rate, staff from the college hope new programs and offerings will draw students in.
With movements such as “Red for Ed” picking up momentum, Jennifer Barce, managing director for academic success at the College of Education, said the issue brought up by the movement has both positive and negative impacts on future educators.
“I think time will tell,” Barce said via email. “It certainly brought a lot of attention to the negative issues in Indiana, and that may dissuade people. However, the amount of support and recent pay raises at places like IPS could be helpful for recruiting.”
Kayla Neal, a freshman in the College of Education, wants to be a teacher so she can help kids find the same joy in learning that she does.
“I think the Red for Ed movement has, more than anything, alerted me to how many schools nationwide are fighting for the attention of their state governments to get what they need to help their students succeed,” Neal said via email.
According to Barce, education majors have decreased in number nationwide since the recession in 2008. Purdue’s College of Education enrollment held mostly steady from 2009-2015 with an average enrollment of 1,180 total freshman through graduate students.
From 2016-2018, enrollment grew by approximately 100 students each year, reaching an all time high of 1,422. This year, enrollment fell a small amount to 1,409 students.
“We had a little bit of an uptick,” Barce said. “We’ve put a lot of effort into recruiting and bringing people in, but it’s difficult, and it’s a little bit of an uphill climb in Indiana.”
The College of Education expanded its programs and offerings in order to entice students to enroll, according to Barce. Not all of the students it serves are strictly education students. Many students come from other colleges and get their teaching licenses through the College of Education.
Additionally, the college participates in the University’s “Degree in 3” program. Barce said it also offers a number of dual programs, where students can graduate with two licenses. For example, a common combination is special education and elementary education.
One of the newest technological offerings is a wearable camera that swivels around student teachers while they teach so they can go back and learn how to improve for next time.
“I was really impressed by the things they had to offer. ... One of the things that really stood out to me was their focused (offices). (The College of Education) has an office for diversity, so I was just very impressed,” Neal said.
She also said she appreciates the opportunities that the Purdue Student Education Association offers.
“They have made me feel really secure in my decision. ... They offered a very low priced way to go to this conference,” Neal said. “I was able to get a bunch of teacher’s supplies for free and able to learn a lot from all these cool people. ... It was just overwhelmingly a great opportunity.”
In 10 years, Barce said she hopes, “the political climate turns, and that teaching again is seen as a viable, supportive career. ... I think that there are a lot of people who would be fantastic teachers who are scared away from the profession (because of the fear of being poor.)”
Barce said she wants students who come into the College of Education to go out and become the teachers who change the lives of students.
“Everybody knows someone who has had a teacher who is brilliant. ... You really have to love all aspects of it,” Barce said. “We would like more of the right people ... That’s what we would want.”