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Financing an Apprenticeship-Based Degree Program

Executive Summary

In order to realize the Reach University pillar of affordability for an apprenticeship-based degree program, Reach University has developed an approach that has enabled them to bring the cost of attendance down to approximately $5,000 per year per undergraduate student. Pell grants average about $4,000, leaving a gap of about $1,000 for most students to cover with apprenticeship funding. The strategies used to accomplish this include:

  • Access available revenue sources, including Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, WIOA, philanthropy, and state-specific grants.

  • Utilize expense management strategies related to personnel, standardized programs, stackable degrees, and thematic semesters.

Revenue Sources

  • Federal Pell Grant Program (Title IV): The grant amount changes yearly. It provides up to $6,895 per student for the 2022-23 award year. The program provides funds to every eligible student, with no limit per institution. It is provided to students with exceptional financial needs. Institutions apply by submitting a Program Participation Agreement. FAME is a consulting service that can provide support with this process. Once funding is received, there are requirements related to academic semester lengths, cost of attendance, audits, and participation in IPEDS, among others. A financial aid processing system is also required to process the aid.

  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG): This grant provides between $100 and $4,000 a year per student, as of July 2022. There is a fixed amount provided to each institution. FSEOGs go to students that have the most financial need. Institutions apply by submitting the Fiscal Operations Report and Application to Participate (FISAP).

  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Funds: This grant provides roughly $5,000 a year per student, though the precise amount varies by geography. It is administered by your local Office of Apprenticeship or State Apprenticeship Agency. Students apply directly to the Department of Labor for the funds. Once funding is received, there are requirements via the PIRL report, which the Craft tracker is designed to meet.

  • State-specific grants: Some states offer grants for teacher preparation programs or other focus areas that might be relevant to your apprenticeship-based degree program. For example, in California, Cal Grants and Golden State Teacher Grants are available. If you know of others in your state, submit them via the feedback form below and we’ll add them to this page.

  • Philanthropy: Many foundations and individuals are invested in teacher preparation. Research the funders in your geographic area who have funded other teacher preparation programs and work with your board and staff to conduct outreach to raise philanthropic funds to support your program and reduce the cost for students.

  • Student tuition: Tuition provides a limited source of funds and serves mostly to ensure that students are invested in the program, though financial aid is also available to cover the cost ($900 per year at Reach University for undergraduates) via a short appeal form. Employers (e.g. the apprentice’s school district) may also subsidize a portion of the program. To ensure affordability, one of the Reach University pillars for an apprenticeship-based degree program, maximizing the revenue sources above and the expense management strategies listed below is critical.

Expense Management Strategies

  • Overall philosophy: Determine what is most critical to the success of your students, and invest in that. For everything else, reduce costs as much as possible. Write out a clear philosophy and share it widely across your institution or department. For example, at Reach University, we know that student support is essential to student success and is highly valued by students, so we invest in maintaining reasonable ratios there while reducing costs related to software, textbooks, and having a physical location.

  • Personnel: Clinical faculty are part-time and offer increased staffing flexibility while allowing students to have access to experienced practitioners. Clinical faculty are core faculty, similar to health professions where nurses and doctors work part-time as faculty and are the core faculty of the educational institution.

  • Standardized programs: Instead of a cafeteria-style menu of options to choose from, consider offering a select number of pathways to each degree.

  • ​​Pathway years: In this approach, which relates to standardized programs, each year has a clear and structured focus. These are outlined below, and a sample is available here.

    • Foundational: In this first year, students learn the foundations of collegiate learning, as well as metacognition and mastery. They start at their placement and begin getting better at their job today by developing professional skills and learning about classroom culture. In each course, they connect their field experience with their coursework.

    • Intermediate & Advanced: In these years, students focus on content and pedagogy, and are expected to pass their licensure exam.

    • Clinical: In this final year, students teach in the classroom.

  • Stackable degrees: Consider using courses in a modular way. In other words, courses for a certificate might also embed into an Associate’s degree program, which leads to a Bachelor’s degree program. This requires titling and numbering courses thoughtfully so that they can be used flexibly and aren’t limited to one degree or program.

  • Thematic semesters: In this approach, you would offer three (for example) thematically-related courses together during one term (e.g. all of the math classes offered during the same semester). This enables students to focus on one subject and make connections, and also enables a single instructor to teach the courses together, rather than having three instructors teaching three courses.

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