Lehigh’s College of Education is offering a 10 percent tuition discount, for up to 18 credits, for all licensed or certified Pennsylvania educators wishing to continue their education at Lehigh University.
There was a previous discount incentive provided to educators at seven school districts in the Lehigh Valley, excluding large area schools such as Parkland High School in Allentown, according to Jamie Kardos, associate director of admissions, recruiting and graduate programs for the COE.
“We changed the program because we wanted to expand the discount outside of just our local community,” Kardos said. “We really want to help grow the College of Education, not only for enrollments, but our faculty are doing amazing research, and we have amazing students. Teachers deserve the opportunity to come to a place like Lehigh to get a degree.”
While this incentive is not available to students looking to earn their bachelor’s in education, it encourages current educators to get their master’s, acquire new certificates or take classes because they want to learn something new, Kardos said.
“We want (educators) to be able to come in, participate in grade classes, get their degrees, get their certificates and be able to go out into the community and work with the children of Pennsylvania,” Kardos said. “We’re just trying to make their path to the classroom and knowledge to the classroom as simple as possible in regards to the limits of money.”
Many educators in the Bethlehem area, like kindergarten teacher Jacqueline Musselman at Donegan Elementary School, are already continuing their education at Lehigh’s COE.
Currently the Bethlehem Area School District has a partnership with Lehigh’s COE through which Musselman’s masters and certificate programs are reimbursed. She is able to take up to 12 credits a semester.
Musselman is working toward her master’s in education and teaching and learning in addition to a certificate in English as a second language.
She did not have her master’s when she started her job at Donegan, but the Bethlehem Area School District requires teachers to get their masters after working in the district for two or three years, Musselman said. She said Lehigh’s incentivized option is reassuring.
Lehigh’s new tuition program, however, will allow educators from other districts to also expand their education at a discounted price.
“It does make sense for me to do it at the pace that my district will cover, however it was definitely a huge relief because I’m also a mom of two little ones,” Musselman said. “Balancing that home-work lifestyle can be kind of crazy and hectic.”
While the main reason this incentive was created is to give educators the opportunity to continue their education without as much of a financial burden, some believe the incentive is not enough.
“Higher education is absurdly expensive. Right now there’s a huge lack of people entering the teaching field, but there’s also a massive exodus from the field of education,” Musselman said. “I think this is a step in the right direction, but I definitely think more needs to be done.”
Current COE doctoral student Madison Tschauner thinks this incentive will improve education in the Lehigh Valley.
“I think that this is definitely going to affect school, college and education in positive ways,” Tschauner said. “Giving teachers the opportunity to take courses is incredible and do know that those are the teachers actually impacting the community that we’re interested in supporting and developing partnerships with.”
Kardos believes this incentive expansion is both a connector and developer for the state educational community. She said the incentive program aims to remove some of the barriers current teachers and new educators are facing when continuing their education, allowing them to attain higher degrees from Lehigh faculty and bring this knowledge into the classrooms of Pennsylvania.