New state incentives to keep quality students lack funding

A plan to keep top-performing students home in Indiana after they graduate from college passed the General Assembly unanimously earlier this year, but it could face trouble as lawmakers decide how to fund it.

“I think everyone agrees with the concept,” said Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis, “but it will be difficult to find funding for this. We’ll just have to try to convince people that this is a worthwhile cause.”

Moed pushed provisions in Senate Bill 330 – authored by three Republican senators – aimed at attracting top-performing students to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics by providing student-loan reimbursements up to $9,000.

The bill, signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence in March, will have to go through the appropriations process next year to find the funding, which was not specified in this year’s legislation.

Moed said that it will be a few years “before checks will be written.” And the first payout would not be for eight years. That means the first students eligible to receive the reimbursement would be high school seniors this fall.

“The intent was we wanted to try and figure out ways to incentivize top performing students to go into the field of teaching,” Moed said. “The pay level currently for teachers and some of the issues going in education, it’s not always seen as a profession that students with high achievements in high school and college may look at.”

To qualify for the reimbursement a student must have been in the top 20 percent of the their high school graduating class or in the top 20th percentile of the ACT and SAT examination, graduated from college with a 3.5 or higher grade point average, and be teaching a STEM subject, special education, or in a critical shortage geographic area – for at least three years.

“We felt like those were high benchmarks, but not too high that nobody would qualify,” Moed said.

Moed said he is willing to have the program start as a pilot. He said 25 to 75 teachers would be a success, especially since there are only so many job openings in the education field each year.

“There are a lot of studies that show that high performing students that go into teaching are highly successful,” Moed said. “I think that education is such an important part of growth for our state.”

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