Future educators receive aid

By Andy Kwalwaser

Ellen Stewart said she is certain she wants to be a teacher.

Conviction is a must for students considering the new Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant.

The federal awards offer future teachers thousands of dollars in financial aid, but carry repercussions for those who decide not to teach.

“I would (take the grant) just because I know teaching is something I want to do,” said Stewart, sophomore in Education. “But I know so many teachers who hated it after their first year and wanted to quit.”

An undergraduate recipient can receive up to $4,000 per year, and a graduate student can receive up to $8,000 total.

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But for recipients who do not become teachers or fail to teach for a sufficient length of time, the grants turn into loans that have to be paid back with interest.

Eligibility depends on financial need and academic achievement. Recipients must also sign an agreement promising to teach full-time for four years, within eight years of graduation.

New teachers will be expected to instruct a “high-need” subject at a Title I school, where many of the students come from low-income families. Similar grants will be available to retired instructors who return to school and then work in districts experiencing teacher shortages.

The post-graduation requirements were built into the grant to funnel aid to struggling schools, said Rachel Racusen, deputy communications director for the House Education and Labor Committee.

The grants will “help attract talented teachers into the classrooms and subject areas that need them the most,” Racusen said in an e-mail. These subject areas include math, science, special education, and bilingual education.

The Department of Education expects more than 20,000 students nationwide will receive the grants when they are made available next year, according to their Web site.

“(The grants) will ensure that college debt doesn’t keep students from pursuing their dreams of teaching,” Racusen said.

According to the department’s Web site, 23 percent of new teachers from public colleges have difficulty managing student loans after graduation.

Director of Student Financial Aid Dan Mann said the University is still waiting on final federal guidelines for the grants.

Mann said a change of heart could be “a problem for some people,” after they accept the grant. Students considering the grant have to weigh the costs and commitments, he added.

“It can be a real advantage if you know you are going to meet the requirements when you get out,” Mann said.