Loan Forgiveness for High-Demand Teachers

Minnesota faces a growing teacher shortage in some specialized fields, making it difficult to prepare enough personnel to work in critical industries. To help address this challenge, two pieces of legislation were heard this week to make it easier to find the qualified people for these important positions.

The first bill would establish a Teacher Loan Forgiveness program to be created and administered by the commissioner of the Office of Higher Education (OHE). In order to participate in the loan forgiveness program, an applicant must complete an application, submit annual eligibility information as required by the commissioner, and complete a signed affidavit confirming the teacher is teaching in a shortage area.

A teacher qualifies for the grant program for no more than five consecutive years following graduation from an approved teacher program. The bill also requires the Commissioner of Education to annually designate teaching disciplines and subject matter areas experiencing shortages across the state. The bill establishes a repayment fund, specifies annual reporting requirements, and requires that the reports be submitted to the committees on higher education.

The bill was amended, recommended to pass and re-referred to the Committee on State and Local Government. (S.F. 759)

The second bill addresses the growing shortage in people who teach for agriculture-related studies. It is increasingly difficult to find qualified teachers for agriculture-related fields. There’s been a 29% decline in the number of licenses held by agriculture teachers. Furthermore, only the University of Minnesota graduates Ag teachers in Minnesota, at a rate of about 13 teachers per year, while the average number of vacancies has been 32 per year. By creating a loan forgiveness program for these teachers, proponents are optimistic more people will go into this area of teaching.

This legislation defines an agriculture teacher who is teaching agriculture education in grades five to 12 at a Minnesota school and has completed an undergraduate or graduate program approved by the Board of Teaching. The commissioner of education may make annual disbursements directly to eligible participants of $3,000 or the balance of the student loans, whichever is less for each year the applicant meets the relevant criteria. There is a maximum of five years eligibility. The grant recipient must also provide verification that the grant was applied to the qualifying loan.

The bill was amended, recommended to pass and re-referred to the Committee on State and Local Government. (SF 1084)

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