SACRAMENTO, CA (September 27, 2023) – Western Governors University (WGU) today announced WGU students in California are now eligible for the Golden State Teacher Grant Program (GSTGP). The GSTGP expansion includes $120 million over the next three years, aiming to award 4,000 students up to $10,000 annually. California's bill breaks down financial barriers to higher education, empowering working learners to strive for a more prosperous future, and fosters workforce diversity, fuels economic growth, and ensures a quality education for all students in the state. With a focus on fostering workforce diversity, the bill addresses the shortage of skilled professionals in key sectors and lays the foundation for a more inclusive and equitable education system.
"We applaud the signing of this bill, which recognizes the critical importance of elevating our teaching workforce,” said WGU’s Regional Vice President Rick Benbow. “By removing financial barriers to education, California is taking a significant step towards addressing its workforce shortage and ensuring that our schools have classroom equity, and all future teachers are set up for success. This initiative will benefit working learners and contribute to our state's economic growth and prosperity."
In California, there is a need for more skilled professionals in crucial sectors, with teaching being an especially critical area of concern. The California School Boards Association said they need roughly 100,000 teachers to provide high-quality education for the state's students while ensuring that the teaching population reflects their student demographics.
“At WGU, we take great pride in changing trajectories for students who are poised to become outstanding teachers and school leaders in California and across the nation,” said Stacey Ludwig Johnson, Ph.D., WGU’s senior vice president and executive dean of the School of Education. “With this new eligibility for financial assistance, our students will have a vital opportunity to stay on their pathways in achieving their academic and professional goals, and in positively shaping the future of young learners.”
The Golden State Teacher Grant Program awards up to $10,000 to students currently enrolled in a professional preparation program. Students must complete their program, obtain their credential within three years from the first distribution of GSTG funds, and commit to work as a teacher at a priority school in California for four years within eight years of completing their program. Priority schools have 55%+ of students classified as English Learners, eligible for free or reduced meals, or current youth in foster care.
WGU is familiar with closing the teaching gap in California through the TEACH-LEAD San Diego "grow your own" educator pipeline program. San Diego Unified School District is California's second-largest district and serves more than
100,000 students and represents 15 ethnic groups. The Golden State Teacher’s Program will help existing programs like these to fund additional students to become teachers in their local communities.
"I have dedicated eight years of my life as a paraeducator and recently transitioned to the role of a substitute teacher. My dream of becoming a teacher had been deferred for nine long years, primarily due to life’s challenges and financial constraints,” said Maria Nelson, WGU student and TEACH-LEAD San Diego Scholar. “Discovering institutions like WGU and programs like TEACH-LEAD San Diego, which offer scholarships and financial support, has finally enabled me to pursue my lifelong aspiration. I am confident that countless individuals who share the same burning passion for teaching, but have been held back by financial obstacles, will now find the means to follow their dreams thanks to increased access to funding opportunities."
The state requires a strong stream of diverse and qualified educators. More specifically, having a racially and culturally diverse teacher workforce is advantageous for all students, especially for students from historically underserved communities, who often thrive in classrooms led by teachers who share their race and culture. In California, students from the Latino community make up the largest percentage of students at 54%, whereas only 20% of teachers share the same demographic. This bill aims to enhance access to education and training for aspiring teachers from diverse backgrounds, bridging the gap in the teaching workforce and fostering a more inclusive and equitable education system for every student in California.
Further details on the registration process for accessing funds through WGU will be available at a later date. Learn more about unlocking California's workforce potential here. For more information on WGU’s School of Education, visit wgu.edu.