Issuu on Google+


Contents Acknowledgements . ............................................................................. ..... iii GLOSSARY .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .................................................................................... ..... iv BESSIE TARTT WILSON INITIATIVE FOR CHILDREN .. ............................................ 1 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY................................................................................ ...... 3 INTRODUCTION . . . . . .................................................................................... ...... 9 BACKGROUND . . . . . . . ........................................................................................ 11 RESEARCH AND METHODOLOGY ................................................................ .... 15 FINDINGS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ........................................................................................ 19 STORIES FROM THE FIELD ............................................................................... 25 SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS ............................................................ 27


Acknowledgements BTWIC would like to thank Boston EQUIP for their work on this report.

About Boston EQUIP: Launched in 1994, Boston EQUIP is a project of Associated Early Care and Education with a broad goal and mission to collaborate with members of the Boston early childhood community to systematically evaluate, set goals for, and improve upon the quality of programs. Over the past five years, EQUIP has become the hub for all advocates, practitioners and policymakers in need of early childhood data and research. EQUIP produces critical research and data reports rooted in best practices and data-based outcome metrics related to program and educator quality, use of assessment tools, child outcomes, workforce development, school readiness, and workforce development issues. Through objective data and rigorous analysis, EQUIP enriches local and state discussions concerning ways to increase the healthy development, well being, and school readiness of all Boston’s young children.

BTWIC would also like to thank the following individuals for setting up focus groups and distributing questionnaires throughout Massachusetts in support of this report: Patricia Cadet, Eve Gilmore, Rosemary Hernandez, Yvette Rodriguez, Kristen Tremblay, Adrienne Welch, and Pat Xavier. BTWIC’s Board of Trustees is a dedicated and engaged group of individuals. We thank you for your time and energy: Gail Kirk, chairperson; Maureen Alphonse-Charles, vice chairperson; George M. Coulter, treasurer; Jed Swan, clerk; Phyllis Cater; Wanda Geer; Robert Greenwald; Mary M. Lassen; Celina Miranda; Charles A. Rizzo; Tyra B. Sidberry; Monalisa Smith; and Wayne Ysaguirre. BTWIC would also like to thank our generous funders for their support and commitment to early education and the teachers in the field: Barr Foundation, The Boston Foundation, Eos Foundation, State Street Foundation, BNY Mellon, Citizens Bank, John Hancock Financial Services, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Additionally, BTWIC is grateful for additional donations from other corporations and individuals who share our interest in supporting accessible, highquality early education for children in Massachusetts.

Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children iii


GLOSSARY Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) Agencies: Agencies that assist families with early education program placement, vouchers and referrals for services. Default: Failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed upon. Usually, a loan is in default when it has been unpaid for nine months or more. Deferment: A loan is in deferment when the lender agrees to allow the borrower to temporarily postpone making payments. With some federal loans, no interest will accrue during this time; however this is not always the case. Loan holders must make a specific request for deferment. Delinquent: Failure to make payments on time. Usually, a loan is delinquent when payment is more than 30 days overdue. Department of Early Education and Care (EEC): The state agency overseeing early education and care and after-school services for families in Massachusetts. Forbearance: A temporary postponement of loan payment or the reduction of monthly payments with increased time to pay off loans, which lenders may allow in some cases of economic hardship such as job loss or medical emergencies resulting in excessive bills. Loan holders must make a specific request for forbearance and interest usually continues to accrue. Income-based repayment: A repayment program for certain kinds of public loans. It is based on income and family size and can result in smaller monthly payments. Loan consolidation: A process through which multiple loans are combined into one loan. Direct Consolidation Loans allow borrowers to simplify their payments by combining one or more of their Federal education loans into a new loan. This may reduce borrowers’ monthly payments and/or renew deferment benefits. Loan forgiveness/loan cancellation: Loan forgiveness/cancellation programs can be either federal or state programs that erase student loan debt in exchange for committing to work in a field for a specific time period following graduation. Public vs. Private Loans: Public loans are federal student loans and can be either subsidized or unsubsidized. Private loans are from a private institution, such as a bank. Some public loans may be serviced by private banks.

iv An Early Educator’s Dilemma: Balancing Educational Aspirations and Student Loan Burden


BESSIE TARTT WILSON INITIATIVE FOR CHILDREN Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children (BTWIC), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was founded in 2002 and enhances the lives of children and families through advocacy and early education policy reform initiatives supported by research.  BTWIC’s mission is to strengthen early education and care for children with the greatest need through research, policy development, communication, and advocacy.  BTWIC’s work leads to systemic change by focusing on critical policy issues that impact the early education experiences of children from poor and low-income families in Massachusetts.  The 2006 report “Keeping the Promise: A Study of the Massachusetts Child Care Voucher System” led to the following accomplishments: • Improved continuity of care for children, as voucher certification period was extended from 6 months to 1 year. • Improved access to care for families with limited English proficiency, by ensuring that translated materials and live translation services are available. • Reduced administrative burdens for families and agencies, with the elimination of the requirement to provide the same documentation to multiple state agencies.

In 2007, BTWIC began its second major project in response to data showing that teachers who work with low-income children are the lowest paid, least educated, and have the highest turnover rate in their field.  The Workforce Initiative aims to improve quality of care by addressing compensation issues and improving opportunities for professional development and educational access.  BTWIC conducted its initial research in 2009, and released “The State of the Early Education Workforce,” which included recommendations to support professional development, degree attainment in higher education, and communication within the field.  In September 2010, BTWIC released “The Blueprint for Early Education Compensation Reform,” which details four creative and actionable recommendations to positively affect inadequate compensation for early education providers through the state. It is BTWIC’s motto that “high school graduation begins with high-quality early-care and education,” and this is particularly true for children from low-income backgrounds. BTWIC is committed to identifying and implementing strategies that improve young children’s chances for success in pre-school and throughout life. Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children is located at 142 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116, 617-425-0002, initiative@btwic.org, www.btwic.org.

Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children 1


to evaluate program quality levels. Central to QRIS standards for the professional development category are educational qualifications of early educators. Without financial supports like dependable scholarships and loan forgiveness, early education programs fail to attract and retain highly qualified staff and therefore to attain higher QRIS ratings. Currently there are a few options that reduce the cost of pursuing an early education degree. The following loan cancellation programs, scholarships, and loan processes are available to early educators in Massachusetts: Perkins loan cancellation recently expanded its Head Start Cancellation to include early educators working at qualifying early childhood education programs—separate from Elementary/Secondary Teacher Cancellation. The Massachusetts Early Childhood Educators (ECE) Scholarship Program, is available to Massachusetts residents working in an EEC licensed or authorized program for a year prior to the scholarship deadline, who continue to work while pursuing their degree in ECE or a related field, and who agree to work for six months for every semester of scholarship funding received. Students who have previously defaulted on state or federal loans are ineligible, however, and scholarships are contingent on state funding.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is available to individuals working at qualifying public service organizations, including the workplaces of many early educators. Unlike the Massachusetts ECE scholarship which reduces the amount one outlays while pursuing one’s degree, and Perkins loan cancellation which begins cancelling a percentage of one’s loans each year thereafter, the PSLF may forgive the remaining balance due on eligible federal student loans after 120 monthly payments (over ten years) have been made. Given that 120 payments are required to be made prior to applying for the remainder to be forgiven, it is likely that only those with income-based and income-contingent repayment plans will benefit from this forgiveness program. Deferment and Forbearance are two methods of postponing repayment. Deferment happens when loan payments are postponed because of circumstances such as reenrollment in school, military service, unemployment or economic hardship. Similarly, forbearance will temporarily postpone or reduce payments for those experiencing financial difficulty—even for those not eligible for deferment—although interest continues to accrue. Income-Based and Income-Contingent Repayment Plans are repayment plans designed to promote affordability and good loan status by basing federal loan payments on income, family size, and amount owed. Consolidation allows borrowers to simplify their payments by combining one or more of their Federal education loans into a new loan. Borrowers can choose from multiple repayment plans

4 An Early Educator’s Dilemma: Balancing Educational Aspirations and Student Loan Burden


• More than half (51%) of all survey respondents reported that they (or their parents) had taken out federal/public student loans at some point to help pay for college. • One-third (32%) of the survey respondents with student loans reported that at least one of their loans was delinquent or in default or that they were unaware of their loan status. • More than one-quarter (29%) of early educators with student loans were not aware of available courses of action (i.e., deferment, forbearance and income-based repayment) for individuals with student loan repayment issues. • Two-thirds (66%) of all survey respondents were unaware of any federal and/or state programs to forgive or erase a portion of student debt.

Focus groups findings • The experience of many early educators in the field is that low wages have already made it difficult to repay existing loans and there is a shared reluctance to take on new financial obligations. • For some, failure to make past student loan payments has led to delinquency or default, making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to receive further financial aid to pursue more education. • Adequate financial support and incentives for educators to continue their education will create the impetus to improve educational levels of the workforce moving forward.

Summary and Recommendations Obstacles for early educators who wish to gain additional education: 1. Inability to afford higher education, due to a. Low wages across the field b. Debt from previous loans (which often do not result in a degree) c. Delinquent or defaulted student loan status 2. Lack of knowledge regarding available financial aid and student loan repayment options 3. Lack of incentives for attaining higher education 4. Frustration and fear associated with navigating a complex student financial aid system

Changes that can be made to support early educators in their pursuit of higher education: 1. Improve information and education on student loan processes. There is a tremendous need for an informational campaign to inform early educators about their rights, responsibilities, and options associated with the current financial aid system, both before attending school and after. Education is needed regarding: a. The options for reducing or delaying debt payments if one is unable to pay b. How to keep track of debt and loan status to avoid problems

6 An Early Educator’s Dilemma: Balancing Educational Aspirations and Student Loan Burden


c. Using the financial aid system to get money to attend school d. The requirements and responsibilities associated with various scholarship, grant, and loan forgiveness/cancellation opportunities. 2. Tie higher educational attainment to higher pay.

The lack of financial incentives for early educators to complete a Bachelor’s degree presents a challenge to state and national agencies aiming to improve the educational profile of the early education workforce. Compensation initiatives that provide a substantial pay raise for those who complete higher education would create an incentive for educators to continue their education, help individuals repay their student loans, and retain teachers who might otherwise leave for the public school system. 3. Enhance the ability of early educators to use technology

While their use of technology was not addressed in the online survey, it was apparent in focus groups that early educators could benefit from improving their use of technology to stay informed about of their loan status, timing for payments, contact information, resources, and options to defer payments if necessary.

Conclusion The work of an early educator is not easy. Compensation is not commensurate with the hours and effort involved and benefits such as health insurance and retirement funds are rarely offered. Individual workplaces and the field in general often suffer from low morale. Turnover is high, which leads to inexperienced staff. And finally, there is little public respect or interest in changing the conditions for early educators, despite the fact that society’s working parents have a critical and ongoing need for these programs to function efficiently. Early education is one of the most important jobs out there. Even though early educators are not regarded as highly as doctors, as one focus group participant said, “We nurture all the future doctors.” Educators deserve to have clear information, adequate financial support, and career incentives to pursue higher education. Only then will the field retain passionate and qualified teachers to shape the lives of young children. Additional initiatives to increase the affordability of higher education for early educators are necessary and may take the form of scholarships or loan forgiveness programs as well as educational campaigns to show early educators how to navigate the complex financial aid system that already exists.

Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children 7


Photo by: Amrufm

8 An Early Educator’s Dilemma: Balancing Educational Aspirations and Student Loan Burden


INTRODUCTION Early childhood educators are the individuals who teach our youngest learners, day in and day out. They shape the growth and development of the children they teach by forming important relationships and creating rich learning environments. Early education provides the building blocks for the social and cognitive facilities needed to excel as an adult. However, high quality educational experiences are needed to create the best results for young children, and high quality education must include high quality educators. The skills needed for effective teaching are not achieved overnight. They are developed and enhanced through experience, training, and educational degree attainment. But demands on educators are great. While the early education field recognizes the value of higher education, the teachers themselves are struggling to afford the cost of college. This report is for them. Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children (BTWIC) first became interested in the issue of compensation and professional development for early childhood educators in 2006 while researching the voucher system for early education and care. Interaction with early educators around the state and further research on the low levels of pay in the field prompted BTWIC to create a Task Force to explore the issue. The Ad Hoc Task Force on Early Education Compensation Reform met for six months in 2010 to formulate realistic, implementable recommendations to positively impact workforce compensation. The resulting report, the “Blueprint for Early Education Compensation Reform,” outlines four recommendations that provide a clear plan for Massachusetts to address low compensation in the field of early education. One of the four recommendations from the “Blueprint” was the development of a loan forgiveness program that requires a commitment to the field. A loan forgiveness program would cancel a portion of an early educator’s student loans in exchange for a commitment to work in the field for a specified amount of time. The Task Force proposed a loan forgiveness program with the central aim of retaining qualified educators for the long-term by reducing their economic burden in exchange for staying in the field. In order to identify good examples of such programs, a review of loan forgiveness/ cancellation programs in other states was conducted. As noted in the “Blueprint for Early Education Compensation Reform,” Pennsylvania and Illinois are two examples of states that have developed loan forgiveness programs. In the fall of 2010, BTWIC partnered with Boston EQUIP to conduct a statewide survey about the experiences of early educators with student loans and the impact of those experiences on their pursuit of higher education. Data gathered from focus groups and questionnaires revealed that while loan forgiveness programs are certainly welcome, the challenges many early educators experience with student loan repayment are underscored by a lack of fundamental knowledge about navigating the student loan system. These findings helped BTWIC reframe its previous recommendation around the creation of a loan forgiveness program to focus on awareness of existing supports for students and loan holders.

Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children 9


BACKGROUND The rationale for conducting this study was threefold. Firstly, since the main focus of the “Blueprint” was compensation, the components of compensation for early educators were addressed. What truly matters in the discussion of overall compensation for a field is not only salary, but also the cost of doing what is necessary to enter a profession, maintain one’s credentials, and fulfill any professional development requirements mandated by governing bodies. Because total net compensation must take into account expenditure as well as earnings, and given the generally low wages offered in the field of early education, the cost of pursuing higher education and the associated loan payments that often follow are substantial factors in overall compensation. Secondly, while state government and national accrediting bodies are mandating more education for the teachers of young children without any specified plans for how there may also be an accompanying raise in pay, many early educators are facing tough financial challenges in the pursuit of that education. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has updated its accreditation requirements to call for a higher percentage of staff members with Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees.1 Similarly, the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care’s (EEC) new Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) awards higher ratings to programs with greater numbers of more educated staff members.2 However, the experience of many early educators in the field is that low wages have already made it difficult to repay existing loans and there is a reluctance to take on new financial obligations. For some, failure to make past student loan payments has led to delinquency or default, making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to receive further financial aid to pursue more education. Therefore, adequate financial and educational supports for teachers to continue their education will create the impetus to improve educational levels of the workforce moving forward. Thirdly, while there are various grant and loan forgiveness/cancellation programs offered by states and the federal government for certain kinds of loans taken by students in particular courses of study, there are not consistent timeframes, benefits, responsibilities, or eligibility requirements. An additional source of confusion may be that some of the options available for teachers of elementary and secondary education (for example T.E.A.C.H. Grants) are not available to early educators. Clarity in the options and eligibility requirements of programs to make higher education more affordable, for early educators in particular, would greatly increase the navigability of the system and the likelihood that early educators take advantage of these programs. It would also improve a program administrators’ ability to advise effectively on these options. Given the new mandates for early educators to attain higher education in order to advance or even remain in the field, such clarity is critical.

1

National Association for the Education of Young Children. Candidacy Requirements. Available online at http://www.naeyc.org/academy/pursuing/candreq

2

Department of Early Education and Care. Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) Standards. Available online at: www.eec.state.ma.us/

Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children 11


The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) has already focused many initiatives on compensation reform and workforce development. Workforce development is an important component of the agency’s latest Strategic Plan. One indicator of success cited in the Strategic Plan is that “the early education workforce has access to affordable education and professional development resources that support core competencies.”3 The state therefore understands that fostering affordable educational opportunities will create a highly qualified workforce that is well-equipped to provide quality education for young children. The EEC has also developed professional standards as part of the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)―the system that sets standards for early education programs and serves as a tool to evaluate program quality levels. Central to QRIS standards for the professional development category are educational qualifications of early educators. Without financial supports and student loan information outreach to early educators, early education programs may fail to attract and retain highly qualified staff and therefore to attain higher QRIS ratings.

What does exist for early educators in Massachusetts? Currently, there are a few options that reduce the cost of pursuing an early education degree in return for a commitment to working in the field for a set period of time. Some come in the form of loan forgiveness or cancellation and others are in the form of scholarships or grants which require less of an initial outlay of resources by the students. Unlike loan programs for doctors and public school teachers in elementary and secondary education, some of the programs that exist for early educators have confusing eligibility requirements and have not always been continuously or reliably funded. The opacity of eligibility requirements for early educators as teachers stems in part from ambiguous language as to what some federal loan cancellation programs (such as Perkins Loan Cancellation) consider a “teacher.”4 Perkins loan cancellation, however, recently expanded its Head Start loan cancellation to include early educators working at qualifying early childhood education programs—separate from Elementary/Secondary Teacher Cancellation. Unfortunately, Perkins loans are often only a small part of students’ overall loan responsibilities. The Massachusetts Early Childhood Educators (ECE) Scholarship Program is available to Massachusetts residents working in an EEC licensed or authorized program for a year prior to the scholarship deadline, who continue to work while pursuing their degree in early childhood education or a related field and who agree to work in the field of early education after completing their degree. Two barriers can emerge, however. Students who have previously defaulted on state or federal loans are ineligible and the scholarships are contingent on state funding.

3

Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. Strategic Plan: Putting Children and Families First. February 2009. Available online at: http://www.mass.gov/Eeoe/docs/EEC/fy09_legis_rpt/5yr_strategic_plan.pdf

4

U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid Handbook. Perkins Cancellation (Volume 6, Chapter 5). Available online at: http://ifap.ed.gov/ fsahandbook/attachments/0910FSAHbkVol6Ch5Oct2.pdf

12 An Early Educator’s Dilemma: Balancing Educational Aspirations and Student Loan Burden


Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is available to individuals working at qualifying public service organizations, including the workplaces of many early educators. Unlike the Massachusetts ECE scholarship which reduces the amount one outlays while pursuing one’s degree, and Perkins loan cancellation which begins cancelling a percentage of one’s loans each year thereafter, the PSLF may forgive the remaining balance due on eligible federal student loans after 120 monthly payments (over ten years) have been made. Payments made prior to October 1, 2007 do not count towards the 120 eligible payments, and an individual must be working at a qualifying public service organization both when applying for forgiveness and at the time that each of the 120 payments were made. Given that 120 payments are required to be made prior to applying for the remainder to be forgiven, it is likely that only those with income-based and income-contingent repayment plans will benefit from this forgiveness program. Deferment and Forbearance are two methods of postponing repayment. Deferment happens when loan payments are postponed because of circumstances such as reenrollment in school, military service, unemployment or economic hardship. Similarly, forbearance will temporarily postpone or reduce payments for those experiencing financial difficulty—even for those not eligible for deferment—although interest continues to accrue. Income-Based and Income-Contingent Repayment Plans are repayment plans designed to promote affordability and good loan status by basing federal loan payments on income, family size, and amount owed. Consolidation allows borrowers to simplify their payments by combining one or more of their education loans into a new loan. With federal loans, borrowers can choose from multiple repayment plans including an Income Contingent Repayment and an Income-Based Repayment Plan. This may reduce borrowers’ monthly payments and/or renew deferment benefits and can be useful to borrowers who are having trouble keeping up with their loans. Consolidation is also an option for those with private loans, although with more narrow choices for repayment and with often higher costs. Consolidation can get borrowers out of default status because of the issuance of a new loan, though none of the balance is necessarily forgiven and the terms are not certain to be better.

What has this study learned? The results of this study are important for two distinct and important reasons. Firstly, survey and focus group results have identified a need to help early educators learn about the options currently available to make repayments more affordable and to help avoid credit problems that make it difficult for early educators to obtain additional student loans. Secondly, this study has identified the need to clarify the eligibility requirements of existing grant and loan forgiveness/cancellation programs as well as their accompanying student commitments and to develop resources and a delivery system to educate early educators about them.

Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children 13


Photo by: Bzo

14 An Early Educator’s Dilemma: Balancing Educational Aspirations and Student Loan Burden


RESEARCH AND METHODOLOGY Focus Groups: Boston EQUIP, in conjunction with Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children, conducted two focus groups with early educators in Boston and a third focus group in Lowell. A fourth focus group was conducted with early educators in Springfield. The groups set out to explore early educators’ experiences with student loans and financial aid as well as the incentives and obstacles inherent in the pursuit of higher education and in working in the early education field.

Focus Group Characteristics More than sixty early education and care providers took part in four focus groups held in Boston, Lowell and Springfield in November and December 2010. Focus group participants were primarily female (more than 9 out of every 10 participants). More than a third of the focus group participants were African American and about 4 in 10 were Latino. About 6 in 10 participants indicated that English was their primary language. Throughout the four groups, the most common settings in which early educators worked were Head Start programs (more than half), other center-based programs (almost a third), and family child care homes (about 1 in 6). Nearly two-thirds of the participants described themselves as either Teachers (nearly 3 in 10), Lead Teachers (about 1 in 6), or Assistant Teachers (about 1 in 5). About 4 in 10 participants indicated having taken some college courses, while almost a quarter reported having an Associate’s degree and almost a fifth indicated having a Bachelor’s degree. About one in ten participants reported their highest educational level to be a high school diploma and about the same number had earned a Master’s degree. About a third of the participants were currently enrolled in classes (though fewer than half of them were officially in a degree program). A little more than one tenth were in a degree program but were not enrolled for that semester or longer. More than a third of the focus group participants indicated that they were not currently enrolled in classes but would like to be in the future. About a fifth, however, indicated having no desire or intention to pursue further education.

Survey: In order to see how the issue of student loan repayment and the problems of delinquency and default were impacting early educators throughout the state of Massachusetts, BTWIC and EQUIP designed and conducted a statewide survey to capture the experiences of early educators. In

Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children 15


the Department of Early Education and Care publishes a list of licensed family child care providers and center-based programs on their website, aside from family child care providers it does not publish the names of individual educators and the programs at which they work. Thus, attempting to draw a random sample of individual teachers would not have been feasible.

Survey Sample Characteristics Data from 395 surveys were collected, with 378 individuals completing the English version and 17 completing the Spanish version. Response numbers to individual questions vary due to missing values and skip patterns based on prior responses.

Geography The Greater Boston and Essex County/ North Shore regions completed the greatest number of surveys.

Demographics The majority (96%) of all respondents were female. Survey respondents came from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds with 67% identifying as White, 14% Black, 14% Latino/Hispanic and 3% Asian. One out of every six respondents (17%) indicated that English was not his or her primary language. In this sample, early educators responding from the Boston area were racially/ ethnically more diverse than educators from other regions of the state. Due to the low number of survey responses from certain regions, however, it is possible and likely that the early educator demographic profile for those regions is more diverse than what is reflected in this sample (i.e., in Worcester and Southeastern Massachusetts).

Setting Most early educators in the sample indicated that they worked at either a Center-based Child Care program (36%) or a Family Child Care home (30%). A smaller percentage (17%) worked at an Early Head Start program and only a few educators (4%) worked in a public school system. About a third of the respondents (33%) indicated that they worked as Teachers (14%), Lead Teachers (12%) or Assistant teachers (7%), and just over a quarter (28%) identified themselves as Family Child Care Providers. Program Directors (23%) and Assistant Directors (4%) comprised more than a quarter (27%) of the entire sample and Education Coordinators made up about 8%.

Figure 2. Race/Ethnicity by Region, Survey Sample

PERCENT

3.7%

6.9%

100%

11.1%

80%

6.9%

12.1% 3.7%

60% 40%

86.2%

81.5%

26.8% 5%

3.6% 22.6% 3.8% 81.9%

85% 54.7%

Western MA

Worcester County

Essex/ Northshore

Greater Boston

1.4%

10%

14.2%

20% 0%

4.7%

2.4%

22.5%

7%

42.3% SEast MA

Boston/ Chelsea/Revere

REGION Other

Latino

Asian

Black

White

Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children 17


Photo by: Herald Post

18 An Early Educator’s Dilemma: Balancing Educational Aspirations and Student Loan Burden


FINDINGS Highlights EQUIP and BTWIC found that: • Nearly one-third (31%) of all survey respondents reported enrollment in classes and/or a degree program at the time of the survey. More than half of all respondents (52%) reported that they were not currently in school but had plans or desires to pursue more education. • More than half (51%) of all survey respondents reported that they (or their parents) had taken out federal/public student loans at some point to help pay for college. • One-third (32%) of the survey respondents with student loans reported that at least one of their loans was delinquent or in default or that they were unaware of their loan status. • More than one-quarter (29%) of early educators with student loans were not aware of available courses of action (i.e., deferment, forbearance and income-based repayment) for those individuals with student loan repayment issues. Two-thirds (66%) of all survey respondents were not aware of any federal and/or state programs to forgive or erase some student loan debt.

Educational Attainment and Current Enrollment Almost half of the early educators responding to the survey held a Bachelor’s degree or higher (49%)—a figure no doubt bolstered by the higher educational credentials of the program directors and education coordinators who comprised roughly one-third of the sample. One-fourth of the respondents (26%) reported they had completed some college courses but not yet completed a degree. A small number (7%) had earned a GED or high school diploma though had not completed any college coursework. Separate from these levels of education, 22% of all respondents reported having earned a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. Figure 3 below shows the educational attainment of this sample broken out by position.

Figure 3. Education by Position, Survey Sample 3%

5%

PERCENT

100%

15%

20%

80%

22%

60%

18%

28%

55%

52%

56%

40% 20% 0%

15% 15% Assistant Teacher

20%

20%

23% 10%

35% 15%

70%

74%

Program Director

Ed Coordinator

27% Teacher

Lead Teacher

FCC Educator

POSITION Bachelor’s and Above

Associate’s

Some College

High School Diploma/GED

Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children 19


The sample showed some educational attainment differences by race and ethnicity as well as position. A greater percentage (38%) of White early educators had a Bachelor’s degree than Latino (26%) or Black early educators (17%). However, a greater percentage of Black (33%), Asian (36%) and Latino (34%) early educators in the sample had a Child Development Associate credential (CDA) as compared to White (16%) educators. Black and Latino early educators were also enrolled in school at a higher rate than their White counterparts—almost one in every three Black respondents (31%) and one in every four Latino respondents (25%) were enrolled in school and in a degree program, compared to roughly one in seven White respondents (15%). Almost a third (31%) of all respondents reported being either enrolled in classes (25%) or in a degree program but not enrolled for the current semester (6%). Over half of the respondents (52%) reported not being enrolled in classes or in a degree program but planning on or desiring to pursue more education. Another 17% indicated having no desire or intention of pursuing further education. Of those currently in school, many were working towards a Bachelor’s degree (38%) while some were pursuing an Associate’s degree (30%) or a Master’s degree (22%). Those who were not pursuing higher education or were in a degree program but were not currently enrolled in classes cited their main reasons as not having enough money (64%) or not having enough time (18%). Other than the costs associated with attending school itself, some cited financial issues related to having children of their own in college, still owing on prior loans, or being unable to take time away from their business to complete a practicum to finish their degree. Lack of financial incentive or a feeling of being overwhelmed were also issues mentioned. One educator mentioned having trouble with an algebra requirement, another being close to retirement age and not being sure of how much longer she would stay in the field, and another noted that at age 54 it seemed too overwhelming to start school. A few others mentioned alternative courses of action such as working on the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL), pursuing a professional development certificate from Harvard, and another that with a lack of financial incentive to pursue a degree she would prefer to take individual classes to further her development in specific areas. Others cited different reasons. Some were in the process of applying or preparing to apply, and others had completed degrees and felt that it was time to work more in the classroom.

Figure 4. Current School Enrollment 60%

PERCENT

50% 40%

7%

30%

52%

20% 10% 0%

6%

18% Currently Enrolled in Classes

In a Degree Program but not Enrolled in Classes

Not in Degree Program

17% Not Enrolled but Plans to or Would Like to be

No Desire to Pursue Further Education

In Degree Program

20 An Early Educator’s Dilemma: Balancing Educational Aspirations and Student Loan Burden


Loan Utilization More than half (51%) of all survey respondents reported that they (or their parents) had taken out federal/public student loans at some point to help pay for college. A third of the survey participants (35%) had attended college but had never taken out any Federal/public student loans. Similarly, less than half (45%) of those currently in school or in a degree program at the time of the survey had ever taken out loans to pay for their education. Of those who said that money was one factor keeping them from pursuing higher education, two-thirds (66%) had not tried to get a federal student loan. Of those who reported trying to get a federal student loan to pursue higher education (83 people), 53% reported having received loans that were not large enough to cover the necessary costs and the other 47% were rejected. When asked if these individuals knew why they had not been able to get a federal student loan, about one-third (33%) did not know. Focus group participants reported having current student loan debt ranging from zero to $60,000. Some participants were also cosigners for their children’s student loans or otherwise trying to help pay off their children’s debt. As one Family Child Care Provider from Western Massachusetts commented on the survey, “I would love to further my education but the problem is I currently have a child in college and will have another entering college next fall and another two years after that. They are my first priority so that leaves very little money for me.”

Loan-Related Knowledge Two-thirds (66%) of all survey respondents were not aware of any federal and/or state programs to forgive or erase a portion of student loan debt. One in ten respondents (11%) had heard of loan forgiveness but did not completely understand what it entailed. Less than half of all early educators surveyed (48%) were not aware of courses of action available (i.e., deferment, forbearance and income-based repayment) to those having trouble paying their student loans. Three-fourths (74%) of all survey respondents were not aware that a person can eliminate his or her loan default status by paying on time for nine consecutive months. Survey respondents were not asked if they knew other ways to get out of default status. These results

PERCENT

Figure 5. Awareness of Early Educators Who Have Taken Out Student Loans 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%

71%

Yes

68%

29%

32%

No

Yes

Aware of Deferment, Forbearance, IncomeBased Repayment

No

Aware of How to Get Out of Default

Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children 21


STORIES from the Field “I am an Early Childhood graduate with $58,000 in student loans. I love working with young children and have been doing so for seven years. My loan repayment plan has me paying over $400 a month and on a Preschool teacher’s salary, that is very difficult.” - Teacher at a Center-Based Child Care Center in Essex County/North Shore

“My loan agency gave me more time to try to pay but I did not come up with the money to do so. It’s very hard being a single mother and paying market rent and utilities by myself. I really need help paying off the loans that I have.” - Program Assistant Director at a Center-Based Child Care Center in the Boston/Chelsea/Revere area

“Financial considerations are the major reason our staff do not attempt to enter a formal degree program.”

“Having one of my own children in college and another going soon, I am very, very leery of any more student loans.” - Family Child Care Provider in Essex County/North Shore

- Program Director at a Center-Based Child Care Center in Southeastern MA

“I still have $25,000 in federal loans to pay back and I am 10 years out of college. The thought of adding even more to this amount and how to fit in more schooling with a full time position is quite daunting to say the least…In all honesty, I would seriously consider changing my career path if I were to head back to school.” - Program Director at a School Age/After-school/Out-of-school time program

Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children 25


26 An Early Educator’s Dilemma: Balancing Educational Aspirations and Student Loan Burden


many valuable years of experience who may lack a Bachelor’s degree—many of whom may be driven out of the field early due to these new mandates.

SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS The key findings of this study are presented below:

What are the main obstacles that prevent early educators from pursuing additional education? 1. Inability to afford higher education, due to • Financial burdens of home and family and generally low rates of pay • The expense of student loan debt from previous degree programs and courses • The student loan debt of educators’ children • Delinquent or defaulted student loan status 2. Lack of incentives for attaining higher education • Early educators are generally not paid significantly better after receiving degrees • For many, there are two basic incentives for pursuing more education, neither of which are good for morale or promote long-term staff retention: a. To earn a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree with the hope/expectation of moving to the public schools where the pay is better, or b. To meet requirements newly imposed by NAEYC or the state in order to keep one’s current position 3. Frustration and fear associated with navigating a complex student financial aid system

Before enrollment in a degree program: • Focus group participants indicated that educational institutions offered varying levels of support for filling out financial aid application forms and completing loan paperwork. • Eligibility requirements and responsibilities required of students for various scholarship, grant and loan forgiveness/cancellation opportunities are not well communicated • Early educators expressed confusion about how to find available scholarships or financial aid, how to determine their eligibility for these programs, and how to anticipate the long-term costs

Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children 27


After completing a degree: • Concepts such as deferment, forbearance, and income-based repayment do not appear to be widely known or utilized • Many early educators often feel scared to contact their loan agency regarding the status of their student loans, particularly if they are late on payments

What can be done to facilitate early educators’ pursuit of additional education? 1. Improve information and education on student loan processes.

There is a tremendous need for an informational campaign informing early educators about their rights, responsibilities, and options associated with the current financial aid system, both before and after attending school. Education is needed regarding: • The options for reducing or delaying debt payments if one is unable to pay • How to keep track of debts and loan status to avoid problems • Using the financial aid system to get money to attend school • The requirements and responsibilities associated with various scholarship, grant, and loan forgiveness/cancellation opportunities 2. Tie higher educational attainment with higher pay.

The lack of financial incentives for early educators to complete a Bachelor’s degree may present a challenge to state and national agencies aiming to improve the educational profile of the early education workforce. Compensation initiatives that provide a substantial pay raise for those who complete higher education would encourage educators to continue their education, help these educators pay off their student loans, and help retain teachers who might otherwise leave for the public school system. 3. Enhance the ability of early educators to use technology

While their use of technology was not addressed in the online survey, it was apparent in focus groups that early educators could benefit from improving their use of technology to stay informed about of their loan status, timing for payments, contact information, resources, and options to defer payments if necessary.

28 An Early Educator’s Dilemma: Balancing Educational Aspirations and Student Loan Burden

words of appreciation

Through survey comments, many early educators conveyed their gratitude for this research endeavor and expressed real interest in a loan forgiveness program. One educator said, “I am currently paying off student loans for myself and my daughter. When I went back to school, I planned on using salary increases to pay off loans. I have not had a salary increase since 2007 due to the difficult economy. Any type of loan forgiveness program for Early Childhood Educators would be a big help. Thanks for your initiative!” Another person remarked, “I sincerely appreciate the efforts of this initiative on behalf of educators in my field. We are probably the most under-valued and under-compensated members of our society.”


Conclusion The work of an early educator is not easy. Compensation is not commensurate with the hours and effort involved and benefits such as health insurance and retirement funds are rarely offered. Individual workplaces and the field in general often suffer from low morale. Turnover is high, which leads to inexperienced staff. And finally, there is little public respect or interest in changing the conditions for early educators, despite the fact that society’s working parents [and guardians] have a critical and ongoing need for these programs to function efficiently. Early education is one of the most important jobs out there. Even though early educators are not regarded as highly as doctors, as one focus group participant said, “We nurture all the future doctors.� Early educators have been tasked with providing high quality care, and for many, this means advancing their education through degrees and professional training. For so many in the field, this leads to student loans and the burden of debt. Educators deserve to have clear information, adequate financial support, and career incentives to pursue higher education. Only then will the field retain passionate and qualified teachers to shape the lives of young children. Additional initiatives to increase the affordability of higher education for early educators are necessary and may take the form of scholarships or loan forgiveness programs as well as educational campaigns to show early educators how to navigate the complex financial aid system that already exists.

Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children 29


BTWIC Trustees Gail Kirk Chairperson

Maureen Alphonse-Charles Vice Chairperson

George M. Coulter Treasurer

Jed Swan Clerk

Phyllis B. Cater Wanda Geer Robert Greenwald Mary Lassen Celina Miranda Charles A. Rizzo Tyra Sidberry Monalisa Smith Wayne Ysaguirre Mary L. Reed President, ex-officio

Report design and graphics by Opus Design in Cambridge, MA • www.opusdesign.us



An Early Educator's Dilemma: Balancing Educational Aspirations and Student Loan Burden