Following national trends, UW Oshkosh is seeing an enrollment decline in its education department, contributing to a shortage of well-trained teachers for Wisconsin’s public schools, especially in math, science and language arts.
In the 2014-15 school year, enrollment in the UWO College of Education and Human Services dropped to a 10-year low at 168 students. In the 2017-18 school year, enrollment had spiked to 310 students, but a year later the amount of COEHS students dropped to 216 students, a 30% decrease.
One of the reasons for this decline in enrollment is a decrease in college students who are pursuing an education major. There is an even larger shortage of well-trained special education majors.
Associate Dean of the College of Education and Human Services Eric Brunsel said negative media attention is one factor contributing to the decrease as teachers are often seen as not getting paid well and not getting good benefits.
Brunsell and other leaders in the education program have taken steps to address this decline in enrollment.
Brunsell said educators are trying harder to engage with the “future teachers” organizations at high schools and offer direct admission to high-achieving students to the College of Education and Human Services.
They are also working with the Cooperative Academic Partnership Program, commonly known as CAPP, which allows students to take courses for college credit, and they are modifying the admissions process to improve enrollment.
According to the UWO website, the Teacher Education Program also incentivizes attending school at UWO by awarding $80,000 in scholarships each year.
“The need for new teachers in public schools across the U.S. is projected to increase by 29% over the next five years,” the UWO website said. “Dozens of school districts and hundreds of teachers and administrators partner with COEHS every year.”
Melissa Poetzel, a sophomore at UWO majoring in education to teach first through eighth grade with a minor in English said she decided to be a teacher because she “wanted to help people and make a difference” as well as “be someone who could help shape the minds of future generations.”
Although enrollment is still lower than its peak during 2017-18 school year, the COEHS and its students like Skyler Hardy are passionate about what they do.
A fourth-year student at UWO majoring in secondary education with a social science (elementary education) major and a psychology minor, Hardy said she always knew she wanted to major in education. When Hardy was a child she would play “school” with her friends and would always take on the role of teacher.
For Hardy, she went into education for the same reason many pursue a teaching degree; she wanted to make an impact on our youth.