By Laci Sutton / Managing Editor – Content
There are currently 42 job openings posted on the Hutchinson Community College website. Of those 42 listings, 20 are for instructor positions.
HutchCC is not the only institution struggling to fulfill its staffing needs. The teaching shortage has hit crisis levels nationwide.
Jesse Newberry is a computer support associate professor and program coordinator at HutchCC. He has worked in education for 10 years now and has never seen a teaching shortage like the country is in now.
“In Kansas, I believe there are around 1,400 open positions, which is quite a bit considering Kansas is a smaller state population wise,” said Newberry, who also serves as Faculty Senate President.
There are many factors influencing the lack of educators. Newberry credits finances as being the majority of those factors.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the consumer price index (a measure of the average change of prices over time) as 6.8% in 2021. In 2019 that number was just 2.1%. The average minimum wage has not changed more than $1.00 since the mid-90’s.
“Right now, I think the starting wage for a public teacher is fairly close to what someone would make at Starbucks,” Newberry said.
Cynthia Hoss is the vice president of academic affairs for HutchCC. She has worked in education for 47 years. In her current position, she works directly with eight department chairs in five academic departments to provide them support and resources.
Hoss attributes more than just money influencing the shortage, including the COVID-19 pandemic, at-home jobs, over-regulation by federal and state agencies, and less faith in importance and potential for higher education to improve.
“There is no easy solution for this complex issue. Hiring competition is fierce throughout the nation,” Hoss said. “One way to lessen our shortage at HutchCC is constant recruitment, hiring, and orientation/professional development in the teaching profession.”
Newberry echoed some of Hoss’ thoughts.
“Education funding at the state level is in pretty bad shape.” Newberry said. “I know that teachers just don’t get paid enough.”
While these factors would turn most sane people away from even considering teaching, for Newberry and Hoss, it’s all about the students.
“It’s very fulfilling. It’s also very challenging.” Newberry said. “It’s hard but it is very fulfilling. You get to help people, you get to see those looks on their faces when they understand a concept and everything clicks together. It just feels good knowing you’ve helped them understand that concept.”
“Most faculty choose education as a career because they enjoy learning. They want to promote an interest in their chosen field of expertise; they love seeing the “lightbulb” come on with students.” Hoss said. “They are dedicated public servants who want the best for their students. They deserve respect and appreciation commensurate with salaries that are equitable to business and industry and other professional fields.”