Policy & STEM

State Giving Some College Students a Free Ride if They're Willing to Become STEM Teachers

Lawmakers in North Carolina have allocated funding towards scholarships for up to 160 college students who commit to teaching a STEM subject or special education within the state.

The program was first introduced in 1986 as a "teaching fellows" loan program, but that was canceled in 2011. The re-enacted version will grant forgivable loans of $8,250 per year for up to four years to recipients who attend one of five public or private institutions (which haven't been named yet). Potential fellows will be recruited from regions of the state with "the highest teacher attrition rates," according to the text of the bill.

The program is targeting seniors graduating from high school, as well as students who agree to transfer into educator preparation and those who already have a bachelor's degree and want to attain teacher licensure. The STEM focus will be on teacher prep for those willing to teach science, technology, engineering or math. The shortages in North Carolina reflect national trends; they're especially acute in middle school and high school math and high school science disciplines, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Education.

Loan forgiveness will take place whether the newly minted teacher accepts employment at a school in the state identified as low-performing or not; but those serving in low-performing schools will get out from under their loans twice as fast as those teaching in schools not so identified.

The state will form a commission by next month to oversee policy setting and choose the teacher preparation programs where the loans may be used. Students will be able to apply in time for the 2018-2019 academic year.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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