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Universities Help Teachers Get Masters Before Pay Hike Cut Off

Lisa Miller

Next year North Carolina teachers will no longer get a 10 percent automatic pay hike for earning their master’s degrees.  So the race is on for those teachers in graduate programs right now. Universities are trying to give them every chance to complete their master’s degree before the cutoff date for pay increases next year. 

UNC Charlotte has about 50 teachers who are close to completing their master’s degrees.  So Education Dean Ellen McIntyre says the school is working with them to try to fit in as many courses as they can. 

“We’ve added sections of multiple courses both for the fall and spring term and we’ve also had a few students who have had to work independently with some staff members,” says McIntyre.

UNC Charlotte is also giving students the option of finishing work over the winter holidays so they can still get their master’s in time to get the salary hike.  State policy says teachers have to get their masters by April 1 of next year to qualify for the pay bump before it’s eliminated.  But the state board of education could decide next week to extend that to the end of May.  

Appalachian State University is considering similar tweaks to allow about 300 of its students to get their master’s before the cutoff.  

“We’re going to be very careful with what we do, but we’re certainly going to try to get all our students through that can legitimately get through,” says the Dean of Appalachian’s College of Education Louis Gallien. 

Many researchers say master’s degrees don’t ensure teachers will perform any better in the classroom.  Not everyone agrees, of course, but it’s the reasoning that convinced state lawmakers to do away with the pay bump.  With that incentive gone, universities are expecting enrollment in education master’s programs to drop.

Gallien says Appalachian will adapt.  He says teachers still need to specialize in some areas and universities can help with that. 

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done that is going to keep us in business for a very long time.  It’s just that we will probably end up de-emphasizing degree programs and looking more at very focused workshops, institutes, seminars, colloquiums that teachers need immediately,” says Gallien. 

For example, seminars focusing on learning how to work with struggling readers, children with autism, or using technology in the classroom.  He says teachers could earn certificates for that.  But, of course, that wouldn’t be accompanied by a state salary increase.

Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.