N.C. ends Teaching Fellowship Programs

Kathrin Bittner | Intern

Recent government decisions led to the removal of several education programs, jump-starting a decline of teachers in North Carolina.

“One of the main factors contributing to that decline is the state ending the NC Teaching Fellowship Program,” said Robert Smith, a professor and undergraduate program coordinator at the Watson School of Education.

The Teaching Fellowship program awarded high school students financial assistance to obtain a teaching degree. Many of the students in Smith’s class relied on the fellowship program.

The fellowship removal wasn’t the only legislative changes potentially causing concern for teachers and students.

“There were many changes that were implemented such as the removal of teacher tenure, supplement of teachers earning a master’s degree, class side caps, and other factors beyond that,” said Smith.  

Students pursuing a master’s degree will no longer gain a supplement, paying teachers more for continuing their education. Teachers looking to further their education would not be compensated for being more qualified and better educated or given no assistance in paying back their graduate degree loans.

Associate professor at the Watson school of education, Brad Walker, took notice of the affects the removal of the supplement caused. “We’ve saw a real drop in our graduate program,” Walker said. “I think a lot of teachers have left after teaching in North Carolina.”

According to Brittany Sattler, a UNCW junior majoring in elementary education, for anyone going into a profession, money isn’t often the main concern.

“We do it because we love kids and want to make a difference in their lives,” Sattler said.

Like many students, Brittany Sattler, a junior at UNCW working to get an elementary education major, worries about being paid enough after graduation to pay off her student loans.

“It’s difficult to accumulate so many loans and not get paid enough to pay them off in a decent amount of time,” said Sattler, who doesn’t plan to work in North Carolina once she graduates.

However there has been some action to counter the teacher decline.

“Legislature recently agreed upon a pay increase that averages to about 7 percent.” Smith said.

Yet North Carolina is one of the states with the lowest teacher salaries in the United States. Teachers seeking a better pay wage and benefits are moving to neighboring states such as Virginia or South Carolina.  

“If you value teachers, do so by respecting the work that they do, respecting who they are, and seeing them as an investment instead of an expense,” Smith said.