Northern Illinois University has pledged to enroll at least 160 new students — or more — through participation in the State’s Early Childhood Consortium Equity Program.
New Huskys will complete a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, which qualifies them to teach pre-K-2 in school settings, or focus on Child Development in Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) to teach or work with infants and young adults. Children in community settings.
Eligible students, current or former early education majors or adjunct assistants with undergraduate degrees from Illinois Community Colleges, may apply for Illinois Student Assistance Commission scholarships to cover full attendance costs.
Funded by a $200 million federal investment for the state of Illinois, the program supports additional training, mentorship, and scholarships for members of the Existing Workforce over the next two years.
Laurie Eilish Piper, Dean of the School of Education at the University of New England, and Linda Ransdale, Dean of the School of Health and Human Sciences at New NUI University, are excited to provide what Eilish Piper calls “a life-changing opportunity for hard-working adults who have been unable to complete a bachelor’s degree because of Financial Challenges and Other Obstacles.
“Adults in the current workforce can now earn a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education with a professional educator license — and no out-of-pocket costs, courses tailored to their busy schedules and a successful coach to ensure they continue and graduate,” Eilish Piper said.
She added, “We are working with partner school districts to identify professional assistants who are eligible for the program, which means they will be able to continue working and get paid while completing the program.”
Eilish Piper said young children and their families would also benefit from funding that “will go a long way to addressing the shortage of early childhood teachers.”
“Since our graduates will also have access to special education and endorsement of English as a second language/bilingualism, they will be well prepared to be great teachers,” she said. “I hope the success of this program will inspire additional investment in teacher preparation by making programs accessible to working adults who will help Illinois diversify and grow its teaching workforce.”
Ransdale shares that goal.
The Dean said: “It represents an opportunity for engagement related to a very important societal issue – the education of young children, and by providing new opportunities for individuals involved in educating young children, we are promoting equality and diversity in this area of early education.”
The HDFS program in her college also offers students hands-on learning in the award-winning Center for Child and Family Development, where daily, one-to-one guidance and support are provided by faculty and lead teachers who are experts in the field.
“The center is a learning space where students can apply their knowledge to the education of young children, begin the professional development process and observe and participate in a variety of early education program models,” said Ransdale. “These include implementation of the Emerging Curriculum model and community-wide programming in Prechool for All Expansion.”
Signed in July by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, House of Representatives 2878 (now Public Law 102-0174) expands, facilitates, harmonizes, and improves access to degree completion pathways.
It is also expected to serve the needs of employers in the field of early childhood and the promotion of racial equality.
Laura Hayden, Head of Special and Early Education, and Thomas Pavkoff, Head of the School of Family and Consumer Sciences, are enthusiastic participants in this mission.
Both departments are already recruiting eligible students to join the Access Early Childhood Association for Equity and are seeking an opportunity to advance their careers.
As many or most prospective students deal with work and family responsibilities, they will have the help of “achievement coaches” who will provide “how to get college” support, including study skills, technology training, time management, and tips for taking exams.
“Many early childhood workers find themselves ‘stuck’ in relatively low-paying jobs, but stay in the field because of their dedication and passion for working with young children,” Hayden said.
At the same time, she added, “They find it difficult to move forward in their careers due to the financial burden of tuition fees, and the difficulty of working full time while attending classes as well. The consortium removes the financial barrier of the current workforce.”
“The professional development challenges facing individuals in the current workforce are significant,” Pavkov said. “The Consortium will provide a range of options for potential students to improve their qualifications and will also provide the critical financial support needed to pay educational expenses to individuals who may not have sufficient financial resources to continue their education.”
Fellow faculty at HDFS offer a curriculum that is “grounded in science and what we know about early childhood development and education.”
With the degree’s focus on strong teacher-child relationships and parents-child-teacher-parent relationships, graduates have the skills to engage in relationships to facilitate the development and education of young children outside of the classroom.
“Our educational philosophy adopts systematic approaches that engage young children in active learning through play and exploration guided by their interests with teachers acting as partners in their learning,” said Pavkov. “This approach is consistent with evidence-based practice, and prepares our students to become staff in high-quality early education programs where these practices are implemented.”