By Molly Minta
Mississippi has opened applications for first-year teachers to apply for loan repayment funds on a first-come, first-serve basis with priority given to those in districts with a teacher shortage.
The Office of Student Financial Aid will award up to 150 first-year, full-time teachers through the William Winter Teacher Loan Repayment Program, which was created by the Legislature in 2021. The program makes loan repayment awards to teachers for up to three years.
Awards are paid to teachers at the end of the school year, and the amount will vary depending on a teacher’s school district. First-year teachers with a valid, five-year state educator’s license who work in a geographical critical shortage district will receive $4,000 in loan repayment, while teachers who do not will receive $1,500.
A school district is declared a geographical teacher shortage area if it has 60 or more teaching positions and 10% or more of them are not appropriately licensed. Not appropriately licensed includes teachers teaching out of field, teachers teaching with no certificate, and long-term substitutes.
A school district with less than 60 teaching positions becomes a geographic shortage area if 15% or more of their teaching staff isn’t appropriately licensed.
Second-year teachers who received funds last year are also eligible to reapply. Second-year teachers in geographical shortage districts will receive $5,000 in loan repayment; those in a non-shortage area will receive $2,500.
The deadline to apply is Sept. 15.
To qualify, teachers with undergraduate loans must be graduates of a regionally accredited university and cannot be delinquent or in default.
Teachers who have received funds from other state loan programs targeting the education profession – such as the Critical Needs Teacher Forgivable Loan Program, the William Winter Teacher Forgivable Loan Program, or the Teacher Education Scholars Forgivable Loan Program – are not eligible.
Teachers who don’t qualify might be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, according to OSFA’s website.
The William Winter Teacher Loan Repayment Program was proposed by Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, last year as a way to ameliorate the state’s current teacher shortage. It replaced a slew of loan programs targeting teachers that the Legislature had created in the 1990s but left unfunded in recent years.