Chris Stunson never dreamed of going into education. He wanted to be an engineer, and teaching was the furthest thing from his mind.
But in a message he wrote to the Bowling Green Daily News earlier this month, Stunson credited loan forgiveness programs for his surprising start in the classroom.
“The minority education scholarships, loan forgiveness programs and positive role models at Madison Central High School as well as Union College guided me to the programs to help me complete my education degree,” Stunson explained. “The programs changed my career path from engineering to becoming a math teacher.”
Programs like the one that Stunson mentions here have been used across the country to help attract young minds into the teaching profession. Usually, the arrangement is that participants can receive partial or even total forgiveness for their student loans in exchange for pledging some years of service to teaching at a public school in their state. And now, Kentucky is offering a similar deal in an attempt to help diversify the teacher workforce.
Just this month, the Kentucky Department of Education unveiled a new loan forgiveness program designed to prepare future educators of color. Undergraduate students in the program would be able to receive up to $5,000 a semester (over the course of three years, with a cap of $20,000). That money would go along way toward helping students offset the cost of their four-year degree, which could be earned through any teacher prep program accredited by the Education Professional Standards Board.
The program would also allow teachers working toward their Master’s degree to receive up to $2,500 per semester (for four semesters over the course of three years, with a cap of $10,000). That is, of course, so long as participants do indeed earn their certificates and teach for each term that is funded by the program.
KDE is adamant that participants of the loan forgiveness program hail from diverse backgrounds, including minorities and low-income individuals. As has been well-documented, the shortage of minority teachers across the country remains a challenge, and one that bears real consequences for all students. I’m glad to see that Kentucky is recognizing the importance of diverse teachers like Stunson, and I hope this program will help attract more brilliant educators of color to our profession.
For more information on the program and to learn how you can apply, visit the Kentucky Academy for Equity in Teaching’s (KAET) site here. (And if you’ve got the time, you can check out Commissioner Lewis’ comments in the video below.)
Photo belongs to Warren County Public Schools and was retrieved from the Bowling Green Daily News.