More Delaware teachers will get state assistance paying back their student loans this year.
The High Needs Educator Student Loan Payment Program started last year awards teachers in high-needs schools or certification areas $1,000 to $2,000 a year for up to five years to help pay off student debt. This year the program received more than triple the funding it received last year.
Department of Education officials say in the program’s first year, it received more than 700 applicants from across the state — mostly in high-needs certification areas, such as special education and English language learners. The state was only able to give out 200 awards because the program was funded at $200,000 total.
Juliet Murawski, financial aid and scholarship administrator at the state’s Office of Higher Education, says last year’s applicants had an average of $43,000 in student debt.
“Certainly from last year’s application, it really was eye-opening to see the debt level for our educators,” she said. “I mean we saw student loan debt from $10,000, $15,000 all the way up to above $200,000. ”
Murawski says the program is restricted to certain schools and certification areas for a reason.
“Really the incentive was to encourage people to work in high-needs schools— that this is a benefit to employees who are in a high-needs school or teaching in a high-needs subject area.”
Other eligible certification areas include math, science and school nurses. Eligible high-needs schools include many in the Christina and Red Clay Consolidated school districts as well as others throughout the state.
This year, the program has been budgeted for $700,000, which will allow the state to award assistance to a maximum of 700 educators. The application period opened at the beginning of this month, and Murawski says close to 600 teachers have already applied.
The application period closes Oct. 1.