NORMAN — An innovative program at the University of Oklahoma is fighting to keep the best and brightest new teachers in Oklahoma.
“We lose a lot of people to other states immediately upon graduation,” Education Dean Gregg Garn said.
Graduates from the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education are recruited heavily by surrounding states that offer better pay for beginning teachers, Garn said.
That higher salary is critical if the new teacher is struggling to pay off student loans, OU officials said.
The college’s new Debt Forgiveness Program will help lift that burden from OU’s teaching graduates by paying up to $20,000 of debt.
“It’s a kind of reverse scholarship,” OU President David Boren said. “We found that our average education major will be paid $31,000 a year when they graduate to teach. They will leave with an average debt of at least $21,000. Now how long is it going to take them to pay off those debts?”
Under the program, education graduates who stay in Oklahoma and enter high-need areas like science, mathematics and special education can apply for up to $5,000 of debt forgiveness each year for four years.
These “debt-free teachers” won’t have to use their paycheck to relieve their student loan, so they will be more able to buy a house or get married, Garn said.
“If people will be here for four years, they will start to put down some roots,” he said. “That’s a great thing for Oklahoma.”
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