Ag teacher shortage prompts loan assistance
The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture unveiled an Agriculture Teacher Scholarship and Loan Assistance Program during the FFA State Convention in Lincoln last month.
“Nebraska is facing a critical shortage of agricultural education teachers. The good news is that agriculture education and FFA is expanding in Nebraska,” said Steve Nelson, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. “The bad news is that there are not enough agriculture teachers to keep up with the growth.”
There is a tremendous risk of not having teachers to fill existing positions for the sake of maintaining the quantity and quality of Nebraska agricultural education.
“Since 2011, there have been nine instances of Nebraska schools advertising for an agriculture teacher in an effort to start programs in their schools and there were not enough teachers to fill those positions,” said Deanna Karmazin, executive director of the NFB Foundation for Agriculture.
The Agriculture Teacher Scholarship and Loan Assistance Program would support both pre-service (student) teachers through a scholarship program and in-service (active) teachers through a loan assistance program.
The Student Teacher Scholarship Program is for students enrolled in University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Agricultural Education Teacher Education program. Students would be eligible to apply for a student teaching scholarship for the value of approximately one-half tuition, or $1,200 for the semester in which the student’s student teaching experience occurs, Nelson said.
The Teacher Loan Assistance Program is for current Nebraska agricultural education teachers who have existing student loans have been teaching between 1-5 years. The amount of loan assistance would increase over the course of the teacher’s first five years in the classroom, thus encouraging the teacher to remain in the profession, he emphasized.
“Agriculture is the number one industry in the state and is responsible for one in four jobs,” said Karmazin.
Funding for the program will initially start at about $12,000 for applying students and teachers in August 2014 with hope to ramp this up to nearly $40,000 during the next three years.
“Without agriculture teachers, there is no FFA in the school system. The future growth of FFA depends on the ample supply of teachers and we hope our NFB Foundation for Agriculture program can help,” Nelson said.