UW-Platteville hopes to boost rural teaching workforce through loan repayment
The University of Wisconsin-Platteville is launching a new loan repayment assistance program this fall to help fill a shortage of K-12 teachers in rural Wisconsin communities.
The university’s School of Education plans to reimburse graduates for some or all of their student loan payments if their teacher’s salary is less than $ 48,000.
The payments are on a sliding scale, those who earn $ 20,000 or less receive a 100% refund for every payment they make on their loans. Assistance will continue until the graduate’s income exceeds $ 48,000 or their student loans are repaid.
The program is offered to incoming first-year students studying to teach in elementary and middle schools. Students already enrolled in the program are not eligible.
Jen Collins, principal of the School of Education, said students must start and finish their studies with the major to qualify. She said the university wanted to help remove one of the barriers for graduates who might want to teach in rural communities.
“We know that sometimes when teachers make decisions about where they’re going to get that first job or where they’re going to work after graduation, sometimes that paycheck kicks in,” Collins said. “If we have the opportunity to help them make the choice to stay in a rural community, maybe take a little lower salary knowing that they are going to get some of those student loans paid off, and we can. to be part is one of the impulses for us.
Collins said the average graduate students at UW-Platteville had about $ 31,000 in student debt.
UW-Platteville already has a link with rural school districts; About 80 percent of School of Education graduates teach in rural communities, she said.
Kim Kaukl, executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance, said school districts across the state have experienced declining teacher enrollments over the past decade.
“I think there are a lot of young people who wanted to become teachers, but because of the low salaries and what they could possibly do in the private sector, it kind of turned them away from education even though their heart was there, “says Kaukl.
He said UW-Platteville’s new loan repayment could help more high school students see teaching as a viable career option.
Collins said the school typically has around 40 students who begin the elementary and middle school program each fall. The program has had approximately 60 graduates over the past five years. UW-Platteville is hoping the new loan program will help recruit more students, so the university has not set a cap on how many people can sign up for the repayment program, she said.
“I got several calls from parents who said, ‘Is that too good to be true? What’s wrong with that?’,” Collins said. “So that might help (the students) make the decision to teach, but also get them here on campus.”
With UW-Platteville providing funding for the new program, Collins said university management hopes to attract enough new students for the loan assistance program to “pay for itself.”
She said UW-Platteville is the first public university in the country to offer this type of reimbursement program.