How the education system fails student teachers

Lanthorn Editorial Board

A typical student at Grand Valley State University is busy balancing classes, work and extracurriculars. But for students in the College of Education, an extra layer of responsibility is present through student teaching. 

To get an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, a student needs 10 credits of student teaching, which translates into 40 hours a week at their assigned school, in addition to any extra prep hours they do outside of school hours. This not only means less time for the students, it means less money in their pockets, too.

Ideally, the schools hosting the student teachers would be able to pay them. After all, student teachers often end up running the classroom almost independently by the end of the semester. However, public schools are low on funding as it is, and a recent study conducted at Michigan State University showed that over the last 20 years, Michigan especially has shown a sharp decline in state funding when adjusting for inflation. Thus, many schools can likely not afford to pay student teachers.

While it is bad enough that students are going unpaid for their labor, students are required to pay for the 10-13 credits during their student teaching semester. It does not make sense that students have to pay for these credits when a majority of their learning is taking place outside of the University. As teachers’ wages stagnate (or even fall), an additional semester of debt could be damaging for students who take out loans. 

So what can the university reasonably do? One possibility is to lower the amount of credits the student teaching semester counts for, therefore lowering the tuition. However, this could create possible issues with students who use financial aid, as it is dependent on the number of credits students are enrolled in. Another possibility is to lower the tuition rates for the internship or student teaching credits, since the University is less involved and those credits require less work from staff. 

The situation is complicated, but it is clear that the current system puts an unreasonable strain on student teachers. Teachers are vital to our country’s future, and we should work to take care of them. GVSU is known for their outstanding education programs and charter schools, and this could be another way that they support education.