UNC-Supported Legislation Secures Stipends for Colorado’s Teacher Education Students
May 27, 2022
Student educators across the state could have the opportunity to reduce the financial burdens they’re facing as they work their way toward becoming licensed teachers. On Thursday, May 26, 2022, Governor Jared Polis signed House Bill 1220 into law. The legislation creates multiple state-funded stipend programs for student educators, including the opportunity to be compensated while completing clinical practice, payment for assessment fees and temporary educator loan forgiveness.
“We’re really excited about what this could offer our present students and how it may take down some of the barriers to attract more people into the teaching profession,” said Jared Stallones, Ph.D., the Dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences (EBS) at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC).
Stallones and other UNC faculty have been advocating for student teachers to receive financial support for years. During this legislative session, Stallones testified in front of the House and Senate Education Committees emphasizing how necessary the aid is.
“Educator preparation has been designed, over the last few decades, to follow the medical education model so that students spend more and more time in classrooms with clinical experiences as part of their program,” Stallones said. “The difference is that when medical professionals go into their internships or residencies, they’re paid. Student teachers are typically not paid.”
Stallones says not all students can afford to take a semester or year off and work full time for free. The price becomes too costly, hindering a population that is needed in the profession from becoming teachers.
“Students who get shut out of these programs include underrepresented minorities, economically disadvantaged students and first-generation students,” Stallones says. “These are folks that look a whole lot more like the students in the K-12 system. It’s important to have that representation in the classroom.”
Student teachers also have to pass assessment tests to become licensed teachers, and those cost money.
“Each test, and there are a series of tests depending on the licensure they’re applying for, can add up to well over $600,” Stallones said. “And that’s assuming they pass the first time they take it.”
Back in the fall, EBS School of Special Education Director Corey Pierce, Early Childhood Special Education Professor Nancy Sileo, Ed.D. and graduate student Madelyn Smith, conducted a survey asking UNC education students if they experienced school expense insecurity and 48% answered yes. The students were also asked if they would have trouble raising an unexpected $250 expense and 60% said yes. That percentage increased to 77% when they were asked if they would have trouble coming up with an unexpected $500 expense.
“Our students are experiencing difficulties financially,” Stallones said. “We don’t want to have built-in barriers; we want to keep those down as much as we can.”
According to the legislation, during the 2022-2023 state fiscal year, $52 million from the economic recovery and relief cash fund will go toward three programs. The first is the student educator stipend program, which will allow eligible students participating in required clinical practice or student teaching for 16-weeks to receive a stipend of up to $11,000, and those participating for 32-weeks to receive a stipend of up to $22,000. The second is the educator test stipend program, which provides aid for students that could be used to pay the fees and costs associated with the assessment of professional competencies for licensure. The final stipend creates a temporary educator loan forgiveness program for educators who are hired for a hard-to-staff educator position.
“This bill is historic. That’s important for people to understand,” Stallones said. “There have been grant programs throughout the country and pilot programs to try to support student teachers, but this is the first time that I know of that a state has gotten behind this and tried to do this.”
HB1220 comes at a time when the nation and state are facing a teacher shortage. Stallones believes this new legislation will help by attracting more people into the profession.
“Education is the infrastructure of our infrastructure. Nothing else works if we do not get education right and this is a step toward getting it right,” Stallones said.
Stallones hopes this will become a regular part of state funding. He would hate to see passionate student teachers be steered away from the profession due to financial burdens.
“Teaching is such a great career, I spent 20 of the happiest years of my life teaching high school kids," Stallones said. “It is such a fulfilling and rich way to spend your life.”
Eligibility for the aid will be tied to income thresholds.
Breakdown of the funding:
According to the legislation, for the 2022-23 state fiscal year, $52 million is appropriated to the Colorado Department of Higher Education from the economic recovery and relief cash fund to be distributed to the following programs:
- $39 million for the student educator stipend program;
- $3 million for the educator test stipend program; and
- $10 million for the temporary educator loan forgiveness program.