Why don't more Utah college students teach? It's more than the money, survey says

Why don't more Utah college students teach? It's more than the money, survey says

(KSL TV File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Why don't Utah college students want to become teachers?

No surprise, it's the salaries. But it's also because they have other interests and talents, an Envision Utah survey of some 4,000 college students shows.

But the survey also shows that among high achieving students — those with GPAs 3.5 and higher and ACT test scores of 30 and above — they would go into teaching if there were higher salaries, career growth options and more scholarships and financial aid.

The online survey of public college and university students conducted in early 2018 found 42 percent of the respondents considered becoming teachers before choosing some other major or career.

The number is significant because if even one-tenth of those 80,000 students who entertained the idea of going into teaching became educators, that could go a long way to relieve Utah's teacher shortage, according to Jason Brown, vice president of communications of the think tank Envision Utah.

Brown said the survey was conducted to gain a better understanding of Utah's teacher shortage and to test commonly held suppositions about college students' views.

"As we were in talks to people about the teacher shortage, we realized that a lot of us were speculating on what college students were thinking or what teachers were thinking as they went into the career. We were doing it. Other education leaders were doing it. We were all kind of speculating why people were or were not choosing to be teachers. Then we realized, maybe we should just ask them," Brown said.

Survey responses challenged a commonly held perception that people who select teaching as a career are more altruistic and want careers that make a difference in young people's lives "almost like a Peace Corps volunteer," he said.

"At least in college, everybody is thinking about that," Brown said of the survey results.

"Whether you're a teacher or biology major or a business major, making a difference is a big priority. You're looking for that and you're planning for that," he said.

One common perception regarding teachers new to the profession is that they will leave the workforce early in their careers to raise families. The survey results support that notion.

Among education majors who responded to the survey, 16 percent said they would leave the profession to raise a family, which was a higher percentage than students in other programs.

However, "it was male business majors who put the strongest emphasis on raising a family," Brown said.

Forty-nine percent of education majors said they planned to be teaching five to seven years after graduation. Nineteen percent saying they planned to seek graduate degrees following graduation.

When all respondents were asked to prioritize their values, personal relationships, financial stability and raising a family ranked highest. Wealth ranked last.

Factors that influenced college students' choice of majors suggest it's not all about the money. The top five influences were interest, talents, making a difference, career options, followed by salary.

Retirement ranked as a lesser influence, which tracked with another finding that college students generally believe they are familiar with potential salaries in their chosen field but they knew significantly less about benefits, particularly retirement.

Other survey findings:

• Twenty percent of respondents said there was nothing that could get them to become teachers.

• Twelve percent said they wouldn't not go into teaching because the profession is not held in respect.

• Teaching majors haven’t always known they should be educators. Nearly 40 percent chose to become teachers in college.

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Marjorie Cortez


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