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Flakoll proposes expanding scholarships to fix N.D. teacher shortage

FARGO -- State Sen. Tim Flakoll is proposing legislation to help address teacher shortages in North Dakota. The Fargo Republican proposes to triple the scholarship dollars available to eligible students who enroll in a teaching program. The plan ...

State Sen. Tim Flakoll
Sen. Tim Flakoll

FARGO -- State Sen. Tim Flakoll is proposing legislation to help address teacher shortages in North Dakota.

The Fargo Republican proposes to triple the scholarship dollars available to eligible students who enroll in a teaching program.

The plan would increase college scholarship dollars from $1,500 per student per year, to $4,500 per year. That would provide eligible students with another $12,000 over the course of a four-year program, bringing the grand total for state aid toward those considering a teaching career to $18,000, Flakoll said in a news release.

"I think this will encourage more students to enroll in teaching programs and aid our efforts to recruit some of our best and brightest students into the teaching profession," the Senate Education Committee chairman said. "It will increase efforts to retain teachers in the state upon graduation and dramatically reduce their overall student loan debt."

Flakoll said funds to expand the scholarships would be provided in a new statewide endowment that would come with the passage of a constitutional amendment this fall.

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The amendment moves $200 million to a state scholarship endowment and $200 million to a low-interest school construction fund. The income from the scholarship endowment would be used in part to meet the needs of Flakoll's proposal.

The proposed plan requires graduates to stay in the state and work as a teacher for three years after graduation, Flakoll said. Otherwise, it reverts to being treated as a loan.

Participants will have one-third of their scholarship grant waived each year they teach," he said.

Eligible students will need to graduate with a merit scholarship, which includes a 24 composite score or higher on their ACT test or a 5 on each of their WorkKeys Assessments and a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher.

"We certainly recognize the need for workers across the state in a host of areas," Flakoll said. "But first we must focus on ensuring that we have a large and talented pool of teachers. This will ensure that we give all students superior academic preparation at the elementary and high school levels so we can meet a spectrum of needs ranging from nurses to engineers to the trades."

The 2015-2016 tuition at traditional teacher's colleges in North Dakota is $4,930 for Mayville State University and $5,153 at Valley City State University. Therefore, the proposed amount would cover nearly 90 percent of the current tuition at those two campuses, Flakoll said.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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