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By Eric Stirgus December 13, 2011

Georgia loan plan in line with Deal goal

Gov. Nathan Deal spoke frequently during the 2010 campaign about recruiting more teachers in Georgia"s public schools, particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

Deal, whose wife, Sandra, was a teacher, discussed one idea that caught our attention when we compiled a list of his campaign promises to track.

"In order to restore Georgia's competitiveness in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Deal will work with legislators, state and local school officials to develop a STEM Education Student Incentive Plan that will encourage our best and brightest science and math college students to pursue a course of study to become an educator in these fields,” the Deal campaign said in a news release in September 2010. "These incentives would be repaid over the course of a teacher's service in our public elementary, middle and high schools."

So did Deal follow through?

Earlier this year, the Legislature committed $20 million to a low-interest loan program for students at Georgia colleges and universities who can"t afford all their tuition. The maximum loan amount is $10,000. The program was created several years earlier but had not been funded until this year.

The program has a provision that could help achieve Deal"s goal. If a borrower teaches certain subjects for the entire school year, the state will forgive a year"s loan amount. Those subjects are science, technology, engineering and math. A teacher must apply for loan forgiveness within a year after teaching any of those subjects, said Tracy Ireland, a spokesman for the Georgia Student Finance Commission.

Deal supported the loan plan to provide more financial options for college students. It was one piece of the major overhaul the governor approved for HOPE, the financially troubled Georgia college scholarship program.

"Governor Deal, myself, and several other state leaders worked diligently throughout session to ensure the best possible solution for Georgia families and students was adopted. We established and funded loan programs for those who found the changes difficult to financially manage,” former state Sen. Jim Butterworth, who was chairman of the Georgia Senate"s Higher Education Committee, said in a statement this past summer.

About 8,000 students have applied for the loans so far this year, Ireland said last week, and the state has awarded loans to an estimated 2,000 students. Ireland said it"s unclear how many of those students will eventually teach science, technology, engineering and math classes.

Funding the program is a good start on Deal"s goal. We still must see how many of the students actually decide to teach those subjects and ask for loan forgiveness. We give the governor a rating of In The Works.

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