by Félix Pérez
Minnesota teachers are eligible for student loan forgiveness of $1,000 each year, up to $5,000 over five years. The program, passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor last month, is reportedly the first such tax credit in the nation.
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“We think this tax credit is a great foundation to build on in the future. We also believe this is the first tax credit like this in the nation,” said a statement issued by Education Minnesota, which represents 70,000 educators who work in pre-K-12 schools and higher education institutions. “The work that members of Education Minnesota put into the 2016 legislative session to advocate for student debt relief resulted in some important changes.”
Designed to address statewide teacher shortages and attract and retain teachers both in certain geographic areas and specific subject areas, the program requires that teachers be licensed by the state. All federal, state, private, commercial and consolidated loans used for tuition and other expenses related to living and teacher preparation are eligible. The 2015-2016 application deadline is June 30.
“Minnesota schools are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain teachers both in certain geographic areas and some subject areas, such as special education, math and science,” said Larry Pogemiller, commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, which manages the program. “By helping with student loan payments, this program may encourage some teachers to consider working in one of the designated shortage areas.”
Said Megan FitzGibbon, who heads the loan forgiveness program,“This is kind of a different program for our agency to do. It could be a way to recruit new people into the teaching profession or into particular disciplines of teaching, and at the same time, current teachers who may be considering whether they’re going to continue teaching. This may be a way to retain them.”
The program was signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton. Dayton was awarded America’s Greatest Education Governor Award in 2012 by the National Education Association.