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USC, MTC take aim at state teacher shortage

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Diane Carr has had the slogan at the ready for years.

On Tuesday, as Midlands Technical College and the University of South Carolina signed an agreement to streamline the transfer process for MTC students pursuing an undergraduate education degree, she finally got to say it.

“I’ve been looking forward to this, so that we could actually advertise: ‘Teachers Start at MTC,’ ” said Carr, Midlands Tech’s associate vice president for arts and sciences.Officials from the University of South Carolina and Midlands Technical College, including MTC president Ron Rhames (third from left), sign an agreement to streamline the transfer process for MTC graduates looking to pursue an education degree at USC. (Photo/Melinda Waldrop)

The agreement outlines specific requirements for MTC students with associate degrees transferring into bachelor’s degree programs in early childhood, elementary or middle-level education in USC’s College of Education. Midlands Tech graduates will enter the university with junior academic standing.

Carr said three existing MTC education courses have been tweaked and two math courses developed to meet USC requirements.    

“We’re just thrilled. It’s been 10 years coming,” Carr said. “We’ve worked on it for that long, and we are so excited it’s here and so excited to see what’s going to happen with these students and the students that they teach.”

Current statistics in South Carolina don’t paint the brightest picture of that future. Data from the state’s Center for Education Recruitment, Retention and Advancement shows that more than 6,500 teachers left their positions at the end of the 2016-17 school year. While more than 25% of those took other teaching positions, around 4,900 — 38% of whom had five or fewer years of classroom experience — no longer teach in S.C. public schools.

That data prompted deans of the state’s six largest colleges of education to pen a joint letter last September urging action.

USC is trying to address those disheartening numbers, College of Education dean Jon Pedersen said, through programs such as the MTC partnership and USC’s Teaching Induction Program, which provides coaching and mentoring for education graduates during the first three years of their teaching careers.

As part of the MTC agreement, USC College of Education advisors will visit Midlands Tech each semester to discuss the program and the transfer process.

“We want to do everything we can to help meet the needs of the students of the state, and Midlands Tech is a phenomenal partner for us to do that with,” Pedersen said.

Midlands Tech, said Pedersen and other education officials gathered for Tuesday’s announcement, helps address the state’s teaching shortage and retention troubles by attracting more students with lower tuition costs, greater scheduling flexibility and smaller class sizes.

A student who transfers to USC after two years at MTC could save between $13,000 and $19,000 over those four years, depending on the level of education lottery-funded scholarship that student receives, according to USC’s College of Education Student Affairs office.

“It’s going to open the door to a non-traditional set of students who may have not thought about going into teaching before,” MTC president Ron Rhames said. “When you talk about accessibility, the cost of education becomes critical.”

Carr said MTC currently offers the three education courses that will transfer to USC once a semester, with around 25 students taking them.

“We do expect that to increase,” she said. “What we hope is they’ll stay two years with us and then they can go into (USC) as juniors. We know that once our students go to USC, they do as well or better as the ones who started there. We feel like this is a really good pathway for them that sets them up to be successful.”

Midlands Tech and USC are no strangers to working together. The Gamecock Gateway program allows MTC students, who can live in USC residence halls and have access to university resources, to enroll at the university after earning 30 transferrable credit hours.

“We’ve had a long-standing partnership, but now we’ve smoothed it out even more so that the pathway is direct and clear,” USC provost Joan Gabel said. “Students at Midlands Tech who decide that education is the path for them lose no time in their progress towards their ultimate degree in education. That opportunity increases the number of potential future teachers, which is not only an important need for the state but a wonderful opportunity for students.”

Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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