Welcoming the Entering Class - All 1,900-Plus of Them | Teachers College Columbia University

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Welcoming the Entering Class - All 1,900-Plus of Them

Despite a tough job market, students are enrolling at TC this fall in record numbers. On average, they're younger, too. KatyAnna Johnson (l) and Jay Sobel are new students.

Welcoming the Entering Class – All 1900-Plus of Them


Despite a tough job market, students are enrolling this fall in record numbers


Nearing its 125th anniversary in 2012, Teachers College gets younger—and larger—every year. The College will welcome more than 1,900 new students this month, the largest incoming class in its history. From career changers to new college graduates, people applied in record numbers for admission to TC for the Summer and Fall 2010 semesters.

By early August, applications for admission to the Summer or Fall 2010 semesters had reached an all-time high of 6,082, up 4 percent from 5,861 last year and up 17 percent since 2006. And while career changers are well represented among applicants, the average age has fallen, to 27 from 31, also continuing a multi-year trend and suggesting that more students are applying straight out of college.

Despite the national economic difficulties and teacher layoffs in many parts of the country, there has been no let-up in the number of people interested in becoming teachers. This year, TC saw an increase of about 15 percent in applications to its Teacher Education and Certification programs. “We’re seeing an increase in applications from those who want to be in a traditional classroom setting, which is quite encouraging for us, especially in today’s job market,” says Thomas Rock, Executive Director of Enrollment Services.

Aspiring educators seem eager to pursue graduate degrees from Teachers College as a way to gain a competitive edge when demand for teachers, along with other professions, bounces back. “Some of our applicants, especially those applying to our teacher certification programs, are thinking, ‘I’m required to have a master’s degree to teach anyway, I might as well go to the best school that I can for this,’ ” Rock says. “While we cannot guarantee job placement directly, we certainly are hearing from employers, principals and graduates that they often secure the job interview, and sometimes even the job placement, because of their education and training at TC.”

Graduate school applications often rise in bad economic times, and the current downturn is no different. Applications to U.S. graduate schools rose by an average of 3.8 percent per year from 1998 to 2008, with an 8 percent increase in 2009 alone, according to the Council of Graduate Schools. Applications to graduate programs of education advanced an average of 1.8 percent annually in the same decade, although they eased by 0.5 percent in 2008 before recovering in 2009. (In 2008, applications to TC bucked the national trend, rising 3 percent.)

The economic ill winds are not the only reason for the recent upturn in education enrollment. President Obama’s call to service has resonated among recent college graduates, young professionals, and mid-career changers. ”Many of our applicants express that they want to give back, they want to be of service and that they want to help to improve society through education, Rock says. “There is no better place to do all of that than at TC.”

That was certainly the case for Jay Sobel, who is entering the master’s program in English education. Four years ago, Sobel abandoned a successful career in real estate law to travel the world and start his own online retail business, but he still felt something missing. He plans to teach high school English in New York City or New Jersey, where he grew up. “I’ve just been looking for a career that I can do and enjoy for the rest of my life,” says Sobel, who is 44, “a feeling that I’m connecting to the community, a career I can feel good about.”

KatyAnna Johnson’s story could not be more different. The North Dakota native became intrigued about TC while still an undergraduate at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. But she first served a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in Baltimore, working at service learning and after-school programs for high school students. Johnson, 23, is pursuing a master’s degree in International Educational Development with a concentration in Peace Education. She hopes to work for a domestic, non-government organization when she finishes. She says her transition to life in New York City has been easier than in Baltimore, largely because she is living at the International House, which provides a “built-in community and optimistic vibe.”

While someone interested in doing service in education might volunteer for Teach for America or the New Teacher Project for a few years, a significant number instead are choosing education and teaching as a lifelong career. “They are seeking the best possible training to prepare them for this career track,” Rock says. “Many of them recognize, and we affirm, that the best training is right here at Teachers College.”

Many programs at the College continue to accept applications as part of their rolling admission policies, and the final number of applicants will not be complete until just before the fall semester begins. The record high number of applications this year means that the College has been able to maintain its highly selective reputation, Rock says. “It is encouraging to know that year after year, we have more applicants who want to be at TC than we can possibly accommodate.”

            Colleges that sent large numbers of applicants to TC this year include New York University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at Los Angeles, Cornell, Rutgers, the University of Michigan and the State University of New York at Binghamton. Among Ivy League schools, applicants were graduates of Cornell, followed by Brown, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton. Teachers College is seeing an increase in applicants from Boston University, Boston College, Hunter College, Brown University, Spelman College, and Columbia University. “These are applicants who are coming directly to TC out of these fine institutions,” Rock says. We recruit nationally and internationally, but these schools are particularly important to us in this current application cycle, Rock says.

            Among U.S. applicants, New York State is heavily represented, with nearly one-third, or 29 percent, of applicants from TC’s home state, followed by New Jersey, California, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The top three countries of international applicants are South Korea, China and Canada, followed by India and Japan. TC also received applications from Singapore, Pakistan, Mexico, the Philippines, Malaysia and Lebanon.

            Rock noted that the record-high applications were the result of a coordinated effort across the College, involving “all of the offices within the Enrollment and Student Service areas as well as the faculty admission committees. The Enrollment Office could never have done it alone.”


Published Friday, Aug. 13, 2010