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Question:


What are some governmental programs that will help reduce and/or erase my student loan debt? Teach for America is one, right?
-UniversityAlumni


Answer:


Teach for America is part of AmeriCorps, a federal organization that provides grants to numerous federal and state programs that use volunteers, often college students or recent graduates, to help people in disadvantaged inner cities and rural areas. A typical program will pay modest living expenses and a lump sum at the end that can be used to repay student loans, among other purposes. Another benefit is that while a volunteer is participating, the program pays the interest on his or her loan debt.
 
Teach for America, as the name suggests, hires prospective teachers from among recent college grads. Unless they have a credential already, volunteers can use coursework from the training program to acquire “alternative certification,” something like a battlefield promotion, that enables them to be let loose in classrooms in low-income locations across the country. Participants in the two-year program receive pay equivalent to what fully fledged teachers in a given area receive, along with a stipend – $10,700 in 2011 – that can be used to repay student loans or to take further coursework. If you want to teach and also have itchy feet, a program called Teach for All may be for you. It’s modeled after Teach for America but assigns teachers to schools in the developing world, such as in Asia and Latin America.
 
If you wish to participate in Teach for America because you want to be bathed in gratitude, the program may not be for you. Some parents have complained that their children have to make do with second-stringers instead of proper teachers. Their misgivings are understandable; everyone wants the best for their kids. On the other hand, a rookie teacher would seem to be better than no teacher at all or a qualified teacher forced to handle far more pupils than she can teach effectively. Whether they are appreciated or not, candidates for the program are hardly in short supply. Barely 12 percent of the 48,000 applicants in 2012 were accepted.
-Conrad de Aenlle



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