Expansion of Loan Forgiveness Plan on Tap
Mandy Peterson is spreading the word: the State of Nebraska’s loan forgiveness plan for teachers is a good deal.
A fifth grade teacher at Schuyler, Peterson is in the midst of coursework that will culminate in 2016 with a master’s degree in elementary education, with an endorsement in school library, K-12. She has utilized the loan forgiveness program that loans money to educators for graduate coursework, and then forgives that loan if the educator meets certain criteria.
Peterson is so enthusiastic that, along with other NSEA members (see sidebar), she has written her state senator to seek expansion of the program, a very likely possibility this year. She is also urging her Schuyler colleagues to use the program.
“I’m spreading the word. It increases competition for the funds, but that’s why we need more money,” she said.
Peterson is a walking advertisement for the program, officially known as the Excellence in Teaching Program.
“Having someone invest money in your education is rewarding and humbling and challenging at the same time,” said Peterson.
“That someone invests that in me, I don’t take that lightly, just like I don’t take the responsibility of being a teacher lightly.”
Members of the Nebraska Legislature do not take the program lightly, either.
The Education Committee has advanced LB967, which will add $200,000 to the program in 2014-15, taking the total available for loans to $1.2 million.
NSEA strongly supports the proposal to expand funding included in LB967, and is working for its passage.
Under LB967, those teachers enrolled in a graduate program may apply on an annual basis for a loan of $175 per credit hour, up to a maximum of $3,000. Applicants can secure loans annually for up to five consecutive years.
Applicants must be employed as a certificated teacher in an approved/accredited school and be enrolled in an approved graduate program at an eligible institution. Applicants must also complete a degree in: a shortage area; in curriculum and instruction; in a subject area in which a teaching endorsement is already held; or obtain a graduate degree that will result in an additional endorsement which a school administrator believes will be beneficial to the students of the school.
“This is a win,” said NSEA President Nancy Fulton. “Students win, educators win and our communities win with more talented teachers in the classroom.”
Teachers know the high cost of graduate coursework. Peterson said her courses at the University of Nebraska-Omaha run at about $1,200 each, with fees. Books and materials are additional, and add in the expense of driving once a week to Omaha from her Columbus home – nearly two hours one way – and there is considerable expense involved.
Peterson has support from her husband – “he keeps me focused and allows me whatever time I need” – and administrators. The state’s loan program adds another dimension of support, she said.
“To allow people like me, with an insanely busy life and not a lot of extra money lying around, to have this opportunity…I was able to stretch my money and use their investment to get closer to my degree,” she said.
“You want to be the best teacher possible. The best way to do that is to educate yourself.”
NSEA members are urged to apply for the loan forgiveness program (see details below), and to contact state senators to urge passage of LB967. Contact your state senator at:
Alert! Extra Loan Cash Available
The Nebraska Department of Education anticipates the release of an additional $400,000 — contingent on the Nebraska Legislature’s passage of LB905 — through the Enhancing Excellence in Teaching forgivable loan program for classes that start before the fiscal year end on June 30.
If you are enrolled in a graduate program, or are contemplating enrolling in a graduate program, with coursework that starts before June 30, you may be eligible for the forgivable loan program.
For details, or to apply, look for the ‘Enhancing Excellence in Teaching’ page on the Department of Education website at: