The Transylvania Times -

To Help And To Harm


December 7, 2017

This year the North Carolina General Assembly decided to reinstate a restricted version of the popular N.C. Teaching Fellows Program.

Beginning next fall, five colleges and universities implementing the program will accept students who plan to pursue teaching careers in science, technology, math or special education. As part of the Teaching Fellows Program, these students will receive an annual forgivable loan up to $8,250. Such a loan will go a long way in paying for one’s college education.

In return, teachers have 10 years to pay back the loan, either through cash repayment or loan forgiveness. To meet the loan forgiveness requirement, a teacher must serve one year in a low-performing school or two years in another public school for every year they were awarded a forgivable loan.

The program is a “win-win.” It allows good students with limited financial means the opportunity to attend college almost free of charge. Since only 160 students per year will be admitted into the Teaching Fellows Program, the students in the program should be of the highest quality.

The state wins because it then receives a highly-trained teacher to enter into some of the state’s most needed disciplines. It is difficult to find highly qualified science, technology and math instructors because people with degrees in those fields can find much more lucrative work in the private sector. Special education teaching slots also are difficult to fill because of the proliferation of students who are classified as special education, and the work special education teachers do is extremely challenging.

The state’s worst schools also benefit because they have a better chance of employing quality teachers. A Teaching Fellows Program graduate can have his loans forgiven in four years if she works at a low-performing school. Paying back a loan in half the time it would take if one were teaching at a high-performing public school is a valid incentive.

The North Carolina General Assembly should be commended for reinstituting a program that will help good students achieve a college education while also putting qualified teachers in fields and schools where there is a shortage.

While North Carolina is doing the right thing, North Carolina Congresswoman Virginia Foxx is not. Foxx, along with Rep. Bill Guthrie (R-Ky.), is sponsoring legislation that would eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs and rollback regulations that limit federal funding to for-profit colleges. Both of these moves would be detrimental to college students and society.

Similar to the N.C. Teaching Fellows Program, the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program forgives student loans for borrowers who work for a nonprofit or in a state, local, or federal government job and make 120 qualifying monthly payments over a period of 10 years. More than half a million borrowers have utilized the program since 2007. This program also allows good students of limited financial means the opportunity to receive a college education.

The program also helps nonprofits and governmental entities. Government jobs that require college degrees often pay less than comparable jobs in the private sector, so this program helps provide a larger employee pool from which governments and nonprofits can choose.

This same bill sponsored by Foxx also would make it easier for for-profit colleges to scam students and taxpayers. It would eliminate the 90/10 rule, which bars for-profit colleges from receiving more than 90 percent of their funding through federal aid and eliminate gainful employment rules.

In the past several years it has been revealed that numerous for-profit colleges entice unqualified students to obtain federal loans. The college then provides a mediocre or worse educational experience. When the students are graduated, they cannot find work because they have not been adequately trained. They are then left without a good job but a large student loan debt.The backers of the for-profit college, however, walk away with all the federal money the student used to pay his tuition.

“By gutting regulations designed to ensure that schools provide the education students have paid for, this bill would have the taxpayers write a blank check to colleges that overcharge and under-deliver,” Debbie Cochrane, vice president of the Institute for College Access Success, told The Intercept.

She’s right. Foxx’s legislation harms students and society.


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