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States Consider, Ramp Up Loan Forgiveness for Rural Teachers

Several states are considering or enacting policies to forgive loans for teachers who work in rural schools, in an attempt to mitigate a constant teacher shortage in those areas.

Nearly 33 percent of schools in the nation are in rural areas, and these schools often struggle to recruit and retain teachers. For years, rural school districts have tried to offer incentives to lure teachers to hard-to-fill positions, including offering educator housing or stipends. Here's what several states are now proposing in an attempt to attract educators to rural districts: 

  • In North Carolina, a bill proposed last week would use profits from the state's lottery to help teachers pay back student loans, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. Teachers would receive between $5,000 and $10,000 through the program, with rural and low-income areas receiving the highest payment amounts. All teachers would have to commit to teaching in public schools for at least four years. Nearly 50 percent of students in North Carolina attend rural schools, and those schools serve a high percentage of minority students and English-language learners. 

Loan forgiveness has also recently been taken up on the national level. A bipartisan bill proposed in April by House Reps. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., and Mark Takano, D-Calif., would allow teachers to apply their years in the classroom to two federal loan-forgiveness programs at the same time. That would help teachers whittle down their debt faster than is currently possible under the two programs.

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