Ahead of the Class

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 Ahead of the Class

Like all teacher preparation programs, the Pathways to Teaching Careers model requires many different resources to support its activities. This section summarizes findings of the separate cost study that drew on data from eight Pathways programs to explore the costs and efficiencies of this model for certifying urgently needed new teachers.

Costs and Budgeting for Success
by Jennifer King Rice, University of Maryland, and Brian O. Brent, University of Rochester1

In calculating cost estimates, this study gave attention to seven general cost categories:

  • Administration. All of the programs had a director, clerical support, an advisory committee, and administrative costs including postage, telephone bills, and photocopying.
  • Infrastructure. Most programs had an office, and all used resources such as computer hardware and software, fax machines, telephones, and copy machines. Often, these resources were shared with other programs.
  • Student recruitment and admissions. Student recruitment and admissions involved a number of activities, generally conducted by the program director. It was the exception for programs to incur costs beyond the normal admissions process.
  • Academic program. Costs associated with the academic program include tuition for required coursework (10 to 12 courses for the uncertified teachers and RPCVs models, and 20 to 22 courses for the paraprofessional model), compensation for instructors, books and supplies, stipends, supervisors for field experiences, and the time of mentor teachers.
  • Support services. As discussed in section IV, support services offered by Pathways programs include orientation programs, advising, counseling, workshops, and tutoring.
  • Student assessment. In all the sites the cost team studied, requirements and procedures for student assessment were the same as those in the traditional teacher education program offered by the same institution. No additional costs could be identified for these activities in the Pathways program.
  • Follow-up services. The only follow-up services that Pathways programs offered were related to continuing education for graduates. This occurred in only two sites, both representing the uncertified teacher model.

Findings on Program Cost

Estimates yielded by the cost study were based on “standard values” of resources so that cost estimates could be generalized, rather than merely reflect the unique circumstances of each site. We expected program cost to vary somewhat depending on the target population— paraprofessional, uncertified teacher, and RPCVs—because programs serving different populations differ somewhat in structure, design, length, and services offered. We also expected cost to vary depending on whether a site was affiliated with a public or a private higher education institution. Given this variation, a template was constructed for each type of institution and program “model” (determined by the pool of teacher candidates—paraprofessional, uncertified teacher, and RPCVs).

Total cost estimates include not only external support but also many resources that may not translate into expenditures. For instance, universities donate space for Pathways offices, and school systems donate personnel time to attend meetings and other activities. It is important to remember, though, that these institutional resources are associated with costs and that therefore decision makers considering implementing a Pathways-type program must recognize them. The study focuses on two estimates of program cost as the main calculations: (1) the total cost of producing a single teacher via the Pathways program and (2) the total external support per student enrolled in the Pathways program. The external support estimate reflects the sum an institution must raise to support the program. This figure gives funding sources that wish to support Pathways-type programs a sense of how much they would need to commit.

Table 1 presents the range of costs by institution type and program model. Because we found little difference in the cost of preparing teachers from the uncertified teacher and RPCV pools, estimates for these two models are presented together. The estimates in the top half of the table are based on standard values for public institutions, and those in the bottom half are based on standard value for private institutions.2 Cost estimates are calculated for the total number of students enrolled in the programs studied. If some enrollees fail to complete the program, this will increase the cost per teacher produced. The final report on this evaluation—planned for publication in mid-2001—will present data and analysis on the rate at which enrollees completed the Pathways program. Early indications suggest that completion rates will be high.3

Because cost estimates can vary greatly depending on the length of the program and the number of students served, the table presents estimates of the total cost per student that control for these design factors. As shown, the total cost of producing a teacher from the uncertified teacher and RPCVs candidate pools at a public institution ranges from $7,380 to $21,713. External funding sources contribute between $4,074 and $6,570 of this amount. The cost of preparing a paraprofessional for teacher certification at a public institution is about twice as high at the low estimate end, ranging from $14,814 to $22,855, as is the proportion contributed by external support, which ranges from $8,568 to $12,274.


The estimates for programs operating at private institutions follow a similar pattern, but they are much higher because of the higher cost of tuition. The cost to produce a teacher from the pools of uncertified teachers and RPCVs ranges from $14,738 to $30,770, and between $5,345 and $16,962 of the total comes from external sources. Preparing teachers from the paraprofessional pool ranges from $41,736 to $49,350, and external sources cover $34,823 to $39,174 of the total cost.

The most costly category in the programs studied is the academic program, because this category includes tuition. Administrative and support services are the next highest cost categories because of the personnel costs associated with the program (e.g., for program facilitators and mentor teachers). Costs related to the other categories are comparatively much lower.

The cost study also reveals how costs are distributed across different individuals and organizations. Our findings include the following:

  • Universities shoulder many costs associated with the administration, infrastructure, and tuition expenses of the Pathways program.
  • School systems allocate the time of school principals and teachers to support the program. In one case, the school system paid a portion of the tuition cost through a loan forgiveness program.
  • Students in Pathways programs contribute by serving on the advisory board, paying for a portion of the tuition for coursework, and purchasing books and supplies.
  • Neither university professors nor teachers incur uncompensated personal costs from the Pathways program, with the single exception of time donated to serve on the advisory committee. While both faculty and district teachers are extensively involved with Pathways programs, their responsibilities are recognized and compensated by their own institutions.

In most cases, external sources supply the largest portion of the Pathways programs’ cost, followed (sometimes closely) by university contributions. The exceptions are a few cases where the university takes the responsibility for the entire administration or a large portion of the tuition costs for a program. School systems also make noteworthy investments, usually in terms of teacher time devoted to mentoring Pathways participants. Contributions from the remaining categories are comparatively small.

Efficiency Issues

Those who seek to improve efficiency in the start and operation of Pathways-type programs should consider the following practices:

  • Identify state and district staffing needs and the most appropriate population from which to recruit teacher candidates (i.e., paraprofessionals, uncertified teachers, or RPCVs).
  • Use multiple recruitment strategies such as Web pages, flyers, and program graduates’ connections to ensure a pool of desirable candidates.
  • Use institutional admission functions (e.g., application packet and review process), leaving program personnel only program-specific responsibilities (e.g., interviewing candidates) in the admissions process.
  • Maximize the use of available resources by serving as many students as possible (i.e., full classes), as long as effectiveness is not compromised.
  • Align program requirements (e.g., coursework and student teaching) with the institution’s existing teacher certification program, as long as no major differences exist in the program content required of the two groups.
  • Offer support services such as tutoring and counseling when the benefits of doing so (e.g., reducing program dropout rates) outweigh the costs.
  • Use lower-cost personnel such as graduate students, as long as they are sufficiently qualified and effectiveness is not compromised.
  • Share personnel, equipment, office space, and similar facilities with other programs in order to share costs and fully exploit all resources.

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1. With the assistance of Sarah Manes (Urban Institute) in data collection and analysis.

2. The standard values here represent national averages. Local policymakers using the cost analysis should substitute figures more reflective of their own circumstances to generate more accurate estimates for their localities using templates provided in the full report, “A Cost Analysis of the Pathways to Teaching Careers Program” by Jennifer King Rice and Brian O. Brent. This report is available on the Web at http://www.urban.or​g/education/

3. DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund. 1997. Recruiting, Preparing, and Retaining Teachers for America’s Schools: Progress Report—Pathways to Teaching Careers. New York, NY: Author.