Guidance on Grants for Would-Be Teachers

Education Department's proposed regulations to govern TEACH Grants cannot address program's fatal flaw: Many students will have to repay funds as loans.
March 24, 2008
 

The U.S. Education Department can do virtually nothing about the fundamental flaw that many college officials see in the federal government's new program for would-be teachers: the fact that the $4,000-a-year grant reverts to a potentially costly loan if the borrower does not end up teaching the right kind of subject at the right kind of high school full-time for four years.

That was how Congress set up the program when it drafted the program hastily in the days leading up to passage of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act last fall, and it is the Education Department's job, through the federal process of regulation writing, to put laws into practice, not to rewrite their fundamental premises.

Given that limitation -- which some college officials hope to address by asking Congress to reconsider the law governing the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant program -- the proposed rules that the in the Federal Register Friday for carrying out the new program may be a bit anticlimactic.

The rules generally align with the agreement reached by a panel of college administrators and others charged by the Education Department with recommending regulatory language to carry out the provisions of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 that created the new program, which is designed to provide financial support for undergraduate and graduate students who go on to teach for at least four years in high-need disciplines in high-need areas. Grant recipients must maintain a grade point average of 3.25 and rate highly once they become teachers, and if they fall short of any of the program's main requirements, their grants revert to loans (leading some college officials to refer to the TEACH awards not as grants or as loans, but as "groans"). The Bush administration's 2009 budget plan estimated that more than three-quarters of TEACH Grant recipients would not fulfill the program's requirements.

College officials are worried about the administrative burden that they will face in carrying out the new program, as well.

Detailed information about the program, the legislation creating it, and about the department’s effort to formulate regulations to carry it out can be found on the Web site of the National Association of Student Financial Aid.

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