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New Loan Forgiveness Program For Teachers
by Teresa Cendreda
 
A new program in Iowa is paying off student loans for thousands of teachers, but there's a catch: those who take advantage of the program have to stay in state and teach subjects in shortage areas, such as math and science. The new program, called the Iowa Student Loan Teacher Educational Loan Forgiveness Program, was announced by Gov. Tom Vilsack. It comes amid a nationwide teacher shortage.

"So many states today are looking for creative ways to attract young people into the teaching profession," Vilsack said.

Qualifying teachers who apply this school year can receive up to $9,000 in loan forgiveness over five years. However, those who also qualify for existing state and federal programs and agree to teach both in shortage areas and in low-income schools may receive up to $30,500 in loan forgiveness over five years.

The new program will allow Iowa to gain a more competitive edge in recruiting teachers and making sure they don't leave within a few years.

"We're hopeful this will make a real impact on their decision-making," said Steve McCullough, Chief Executive Officer of Iowa Student Loan. "We're really looking to try to (encourage) new teachers to [...] decide to stay in Iowa after graduation."

But getting teachers to decide to teach in the critical shortage areas may prove to be an obstacle.

"Teaching is a passion. You have to love what you do," said Erin Puhl, 20, of Le Mars. "You can be good at chemistry or math—I am good at them—but I don't necessarily love them. I like English a lot. It has to be something that you want to do. You don't want to just go into it because they're going to pay off all your loans."

The program is being created with money generated through interest by Iowa Student Loan. As a non-profit, the corporation is required to use that money to benefit students.

Iowa ranks 41st in the nation for its average teacher salary, according to the National Education Association. Iowa's 2004-05 average teacher salary of $39,284 was $8,524 below the national average of $47,808.




 


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