Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley Turner establishing a loan redemption program for certain teachers of STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to help them pay off college debt has cleared the Senate Education Committee.
“New Jersey’s schools continually are some of the best performing schools in the country. However, we face a shortage of teachers in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “We need to do more to attract educators to teach our students critical STEM subjects and help us prepare tomorrow's workforce. Our students need to learn 21st century skills to fill jobs that require highly skilled workers and to allow New Jersey businesses to gain a competitive edge in the global marketplace.”
Currently, New Jersey issues loans through the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS) program to help pay for college costs not already covered by other sources of grants, scholarships and loans. The program is run by the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority. The legislation would provide loan redemption for educators who received loans through this program, if they teach science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
In order to participate in the program, a person must have been an undergraduate student who received loans from NJCLASS and employed for three full years as a teacher of science or mathematics. Under the bill, a STEM teacher in a former Abbott district could have all NJCLASS loans forgiven after seven years of service, while STEM teachers in other districts and nonpublic schools could achieve total loan forgiveness after ten years of service.
"This is an effective way to recruit and retain teachers in STEM subjects; however, it is also a way to attract more educators to urban school districts that often have greater difficulty hiring highly qualified teachers," said Turner. "Allowing college graduates to wipe away some or all of the excruciating debt they owe for earning their college degrees will enhance the recruiting methods of poorer districts that pay lower salaries than wealthier districts."
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