A new grant program from Iowa Student Loan will provide ,000 cash grants to first-year teachers in Iowa who accept assignments in certain "shortage areas," as designated by the state Department of Education.
The ,000 one-time awards are not student loans and do not have to be repaid. The grant program, which is expected to continue annually, will be funded from Iowa Student Loan's operating revenue and is expected to help more than 60 teachers each year. Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
>> Applying for an Iowa Student Loan Teacher Career Establishment Grant
First-year teachers in qualifying subjects like mathematics, science, English as a second language, foreign languages, music, agriculture, industrial arts, and special education can apply for the grants online.
The program, named the Teacher Career Establishment Grant Program, is designed to help new teachers with living expenses. The grants can be used to help repay student loans and reduce student loan debt but can also be used for any other expenses. Iowa Student Loan doesn't place restrictions on how the money can be spent.
The Iowa Student Loan grants are intended to help recruit and retain new teachers in Iowa. The program is open to all recent graduates, regardless of your current state of residence or where you went to college.
In order to be eligible for the grant program, you must be contracted to begin your first teaching job after Jan. 1, 2011, and you must teach in an Iowa classroom. You may not have taught in any other state prior to teaching in Iowa.
>> State Hopes Financial Aid Will Attract More Teachers
The Iowa grant program has been established in response to a growing need among Iowa school districts for qualified teachers.
A 2009 survey conducted by the Iowa Department of Education reported that the state had nearly twice as many math teachers who were ready to retire as it had incoming math teachers. The same survey also showed that the ratio of retiring teachers to new teachers in other academic shortage areas, like physics, was similarly lopsided.
One goal of the grant program is to convince Iowa education students to remain in the state and pursue teaching opportunities locally. By helping with newly minted teachers' first-year expenses, Iowa Student Loan hopes to bolster the number of highly qualified teachers that remain in the state after graduation.
For its part, the state has also recently moved to increase starting salaries in Iowa schools to make the decision to teach in Iowa easier on students who may be carrying a large debt burden from college loans.
Historically, Iowa had offered starting salaries for teachers that were among the lowest in the country. Recently, however, starting salaries for teachers in Iowa have risen from the bottom one-quarter of all state starting teacher salaries nationwide to about the national median starting salary.
>> Iowa Grants Begin as Student Loan Forgiveness Program Ends
These new Teacher Career Establishment Grants replace a student loan forgiveness program that was instituted in 2006 and is winding down this year.
The Teacher Education Loan Forgiveness Program, also sponsored by Iowa Student Loan, provided student loan debt reduction for more than 300 teachers who enrolled in the program. The student loan forgiveness program provided millions of dollars in student loan debt relief for teachers who accepted assignments in areas where teacher shortages were apparent.
The student loan debt forgiveness program has paid out approximately 20 percent of its committed funds and will pay the remaining 80 percent as program participants fulfill their teaching commitments. The Teacher Education Loan Forgiveness Program stopped accepting applications at the end of the 2009-10 academic year.
>> About Iowa Student Loan
Iowa Student Loan, based in Des Moines, is a private, nonprofit financial aid organization established in 1981 to help Iowa students and families obtain the money they need to pay for college. The organization also provides benefits in the form of discounted college loan products and student loan forgiveness programs, and it supports free college planning services for students and their families.