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Metro State University Awarded $1.35 Million Grant to Support Students of Color and American Indian Students to Become Licensed Teachers

Posted September 7, 2023

Children listening to an instructor at a table in a classroom


Metro State University, the Twin Cities’ nationally recognized urban university, is pleased to announce it has been awarded a 2024 Collaborative Urban and Greater MN Educators of Color (CUGMEC) grant from the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB). The grant marks the eighth time in as many years that Metro State has been awarded funding from PELSB to advance the recruitment, enrollment, and retention of students of color and American Indian students enrolled in its School of Urban Education (UED). 

A primary goal of Metro State’s UED is to prepare and graduate a diverse teaching staff reflective of the students and families those urban schools serve. In accordance with this goal, teachers of color and American Indian teachers (TOCAIT) candidates have comprised more than 50% of the UED’s student population for more than a decade without admission quotas. That number reached 57% for the spring 2023 semester. In fact, Metro State’s UED is the most diverse teacher preparation program in the state with the largest total number and percentage of TOCAIT candidates. Metro State is also the only institution of its kind with a teacher preparation program in which persons of color make up the majority of its faculty and staff.

Metro State Teaching Majors by Racial Ethnic Group graph

Paul Spies, dean of Metro State University’s UED, says the university plans to increase its TOCAIT candidate population to 75% in the next five years to reflect the increasingly diverse pre-K–12 student population in metro area schools. To that end, the UED will use the $1.35 million grant to fund TOCAIT candidate recruitment efforts as well as scholarships for enrolled TOCAIT candidates. 

“The majority of Metro State’s teacher candidates are post-traditional adult students with disproportionately low incomes and multiple work and family responsibilities, so many of them face numerous challenges when choosing to further their education, none-the-least of which is a lack of finances,” said Spies. “The funding from this grant will make a significant difference not only for TOCAIT candidates here at Metro State but also for their future students.”

Spies added that Metro State’s UED used CUGMEC grant dollars to fully fund tuition and fees for 106 TOCAIT candidates admitted and enrolled in FY 2023 (Summer ’22, Fall ’22, Spring ’23) as well as 42 candidates admitted and enrolled in the first semester of FY 2024 (Summer ’23). 

According to PELSB, while students of color and American Indian students make up 37% of the K–12 population in Minnesota, only 6% of the state’s more than 63,000 teachers are teachers of color or American Indian teachers. Yet studies show that teachers of color can help improve academic outcomes for students of color by fostering a sense of belonging. One study in particular found that black students who had at least one black teacher from kindergarten to third grade were 14% more likely to graduate from high school and 20% more likely to enroll in college than black students with no black teachers.

“Through Metro State’s UED, we not only ensure our teacher candidates can teach reading, writing, and arithmetic but that they can empathize and connect with their diverse students and their experiences in an authentic way,” said Spies. “Teachers who complete our program are often seen in their schools and districts as leaders in closing opportunity gaps and in providing equitable educational experiences to their students.”

Metro State’s UED offers 15 undergraduate and graduate licensure and degree programs for diverse individuals seeking employment as educators within Twin Cities area schools and school districts. The university and its UED are accepting admission applications for the spring 2024 semester, which begins in January. 

About Metro State University

Founded in 1971, Metro State University, a member of Minnesota State, is the Twin Cities’ public, urban, comprehensive state university providing lifelong learning and competitive academic and professional degree programs at the bachelor, master and doctoral levels. The university offers more than 60 undergraduate programs and more than 25 graduate degrees. Metro State ranks 22nd in the nation and first in Minnesota on CollegeNet’s Social Mobility Index, which measures colleges’ and universities’ success in elevating students from low-income strata into the middle class within five years of graduation. To learn more, visit



Patty Gibbs   
For Metro State University