South Carolina’s teaching vacancies are at record highs, but undergraduate programs for at least two of South Carolina’s largest universities continue to attract more students.

While other college education programs have seen fewer students in recent years, the College of Charleston had about 34 percent more students enrolled in its undergraduate degree this fall than it did in the fall of 2017. Clemson University’s program grew 74 percent over the same period.

“This generation wants to make a difference – and what better way to make a difference than to be a teacher?” said Frances Welch, dean of the College of Charleston’s School of Education.

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The College of Charleston had also increased enrollments for its graduate programs in elementary and early childhood education, going from a total of 22 students in 2017 to 37 this fall.

Tracey Hunter-Doniger, chair of the school’s teacher education department, said the college hopes to attract even more students through its new minor curriculum introduced this school year.

So far, nine students have enrolled in the minor. Courses include Creating Learning Environments, Neurodiversity: Introducing the Extraordinary Learner, and Classroom and Behavior Management.

“It’s about learning how to be a leader, how to innovate, and how to work with people,” Hunter-Doniger said.

Elementary school graduation wasn’t the only program that saw growth at Clemson. Most of the university’s undergraduate and graduate programs have attracted more students over the past five years, each growing by about 300 students.

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Enrollment numbers for the various programs offered at the University of South Carolina College of Education could not be broken down by time of publication. But overall, USC’s school of education has also grown, with freshman intake up about 77 percent year-over-year, said Alexis Watts, a spokeswoman for the school. The College of Education currently has about 2,000 students.

Yet at some of South Carolina’s largest universities, fewer students are pursuing many other degrees. Total enrollment for all undergraduate and graduate programs at the College of Charleston has decreased slightly from five years ago, from a total of 582 students to 553.

At Winthrop University, enrollment in the elementary program has fallen from 190 students in the fall of 2017 to 123 this year. None of its undergraduate programs had more enrollments than five years ago.

Education graduate programs also declined slightly.

Fewer graduates of South Carolina’s teacher training programs are generally being accepted into the pool of newly hired teachers, according to a report released Nov. 17 by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement

Almost 20 percent of the new hires this year were recent graduates of teaching degrees. In a few years, those graduates accounted for up to a third of new hires, Jennifer Garrett, a researcher at CERRA who compiled the report, told The Post and Courier earlier this month.

The decline in South Carolina’s graduating into apprenticeship positions also comes at a time when the state’s K-12 schools have more vacancies than at any time in the past two decades. The CERRA report shows a 39 percent increase in openings at this school from the previous year.

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Follow Maura Turcotte on Twitter @mcturcotte.

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