Degrees Starting to Devalue?

Having a master's degree in teaching usually costs around $6400 per semester for a full time North Carolina resident that is attending East Carolina University's College of Education. This means that a four semester program would cost around $26,000. However, according to the North Carolina legislature, it doesn't mean that it's going to be worth the amount that most would expect it to be. The most recent state budget that was passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor has eliminated a provision that provided automatic pay raises to public school teachers who had completed their master's degrees.

This is one of several changes that was made to the budget regarding teacher compensation and their work requirements. However, it is the one change that is likely to have the greatest impact on the state's higher education institutions in the long run. The elimination of this benefit may have a significant impact on the amount of enrollment at education schools in North Carolina universities and colleges. Many of those programs are known for generating net revenues for their institutions, which means that enrollment declines could affect the bottom lines in the future.

Unfortunately, North Carolina's changes could also set the example for other states to follow the same path. This is likely as lawmakers are searching for ways to control spending in regards to an increased pension, health care, and public safety concerns. Over the past few years, there have been numerous public figures which have questioned the value of rewarding teachers for their degrees. These concerns have been voiced by people such as Bill Gates and U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. In a 2010 speech, Duncan said "Districts currently pay about $8 billion each year to teachers because they have master's degrees, even though there is little evidence teachers with master's degrees improve student achievement more than other teachers."

The financial effect may be damaging at some of the state's small private colleges that have education schools. Those institutions do not have any state revenue or research funding that they can rely on and they also do not have diversified undergraduate and graduate programming programs that can bring in higher amounts of revenue. Graduate programs in education are able to pull from the local markets, so there may be other markets that North Carolina universities could get involved with in the long run.

Because many of the programs in question take many years to complete, a large amount of the teaches who have already paid for a substantial portion of their programs may be left with a significant amount of debt and no related pay increase to make up for it. Paperwork for pay increase must be filed by April 2014, so those who graduate in May will not be able to benefit. However, some teachers are working on completing their degrees by the end of the year before the policy will go into effect.