Bayer aims to help teachers with student loan forgiveness legislation

LANSING – Coinciding with the Michigan Education Association’s Red for Ed Rally, Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) today introduced the “Excellence in Education Act” to offer student loan forgiveness for eligible teachers who teach in at-risk schools. 

Senate Bill 380 would offer yearly grants to new teachers for loan forgiveness totaling up to 10% of their total student debt, or a limit of $20,000, if they teach in at-risk schools. At-risk schools would be schools where at least 50% of students are enrolled in free or reduced lunch programs. 

“For our state to succeed, we need our children to succeed,” Sen. Bayer said. “A great Michigan starts with great teachers, and it’s up to legislators in Lansing to set an example and invest in them.”

The average student-loan debt at four-year Michigan colleges and universities increased by 52% between 2001 and 2017, and climbed to $30,204. Yet, according to 2017 studies, starting teacher salaries in Michigan’s public schools are still around $36,620. The financial burden of having to pay student loans while earning such an average salary ends up yielding an economic ripple effect that is reflected in our economy. 

According to a survey by social impact startup Summer and the nonprofit organization Student Debt Crisis, 44 million Americans are in repayment for $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loans, leaving many unable to buy a house or have children.

“It’s no mystery why teachers are leaving Michigan schools in record numbers,” Sen. Bayer said. “It’s not that they don’t want to be in the classrooms doing what they love; it’s because they are seriously struggling to make ends meet and didn’t agree to a poverty contract when they signed on to teach, and quite frankly, they deserve a whole lot more and a whole lot better.”

Under this legislation, teachers would be eligible to receive the student loan forgiveness grants for up to 10 years if they remain in at-risk schools and apply within three years of obtaining their teaching certificate.

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