January 16, 2020

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AASA and Allied Organizations Offer Letter in Support to US ED NPRM on the TEACH Grant program.

On January 10, 2020, AASA and 17 other allied organizations submitted a letter in support of the Department of Education's proposed regulatory changes to the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program in an effort led by the Learning Policy institute.

 

For context, The TEACH Grant is a federal service scholarship program targeted at addressing teaching shortages in high-need fields and communities. The TEACH Grant Program provides scholarships of $4,000 per year (for up to 4 years) to undergraduate and graduate students who are preparing for a career in teaching, and who commit to teaching a high-need subject in a high-poverty elementary or secondary school for at least 4 years within 8 years of completing a degree. This grant is converted to a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan (with interest accrued from the date each grant was awarded) if a teacher is determined not to have fulfilled his or her commitment. However, most importantly for school districts, the TEACH grant is an effective method for attracting and keeping teachers in education.

 

Specifically, the Department's proposed changes fall under three categories, which are qualifying positions and schools, the grant-to-loan conversion process, and program information for grantees. Each of these has come under heavy criticism over the past year for their bureaucratic red tape (e.g., outdated lists, erroneous grant-to-loan conversions, and lack of access to programmatic information). To address these concerns, the proposed regulation would do the following:

  1. Require a teaching candidates' high-need field to be enumerated in the Nationwide List for the state in which the grant recipient teaches at the time the recipient signed the agreement to receive the TEACH Grant, even if that field subsequently loses its high-need designation for that state before the grant recipient begins teaching in that field; or (2) at the time the grant recipient begins teaching in that field, even if that field subsequently loses its high-need designation for that state;
  2. Simplify the regulations specifying the conditions under which TEACH Grants are converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans so that, for all grant recipients, loan conversion will occur only if the recipient asks the Secretary to convert his or her TEACH Grants to loans, or if the recipient fails to begin or maintain qualifying teaching service within a timeframe that would allow the recipient to satisfy the service obligation within the 8-year service period; and
  3. Expand the information that is provided to TEACH Grant recipients during initial, subsequent, and exit counseling, and add a new conversion counseling requirement for grant recipients whose TEACH Grants are converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
 

AASA was proud to support these proposed regulatory changes, as they represent an opportunity for the Department to significantly improve the effectiveness of the TEACH Grant Program and are an important piece of the work toward ensuring that every student has access to a well-prepared and diverse teacher workforce. At this point, we are waiting for the final rule from Ed. That said, we will keep you up abreast of any developments.