House Bill 480 would financially incentivize high–demand careers by switching some loans to scholarships.

Bill to make state ed loans into scholarships heads to Senate

Jarek RutzDelaware Live, Education, Headlines

House Bill 480 would financially incentivize high–demand careers by switching some loans to scholarships.

House Bill 480 would financially incentivize high–demand careers by switching some loans to scholarships.

A bill that would transform certain loans to scholarships to encourage students to pursue careers in education and other needed career fields was released by the Senate Education Committee Wednesday.

It was the committee’s last hearing in this legislative session, which began in January 2021 and spanned two years.

The bill already has passed the House and is now eligible to be voted on by the full Senate Thursday in its last session of the year.

The change came partly because students in Delaware and nationwide have become more reluctant to take out student loans which linger well into their working lives.

HB 480, sponsored by Rep. Valerie Longhurst, Bear/Delaware City, would replace scholarship loan programs with the career-based scholarship program,and establish an educator support and mental health services scholarship programs.

Both the educator support scholarship and mental health services scholarship will help Delaware schools with its teacher shortage, create mental health professionals to fill new slots in schools and add permanent, full-time substitutes in schools.

“The current Education Office programs are structured as loans rather than scholarships,” said Sen. Laura Sturgeon, D-Hockessin, “and the program structure does not incentivize students to stay, live and work in Delaware after graduation.”

In the past five years, the Delaware Higher Education Office has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of students willing to accept loans as a form of financial assistance, she said.

“In Delaware, the student loan debt ratio has increased to become one of the highest in the country, with a student averaging $36,243 in undergraduate debt,” she said. 

The B. Bradford Barnes Memorial Scholarship and the Herman M. Holloway Memorial Scholarship will remain full scholarships to University of Delaware and Delaware State University.

The Charles L. Hebner Memorial Scholarship will transition from a full scholarship to a merit scholarship for Delaware’s highest achievers.The Hebner scholarship is awarded to 200 students annually, said Sturgeon. 

“We’ll be creating flexibility and scholarship programs to meet the current demands of the labor market,” said Sturgeon, “and provide educators support scholarships and programs for Delaware students who intend to pursue careers in specific certifications identified as areas of need in Delaware.”

The bill does not have a fiscal note attached.

Some of the programs will be:

  • High needs student loan repayment program 
  • Critical needs reimbursement program
  • Mental health, professional and speech language pathologist scholarship and loan repayment program
  • Educator and high needs specialist scholarships 

The Delaware Higher Education Office will work with the Department of Labor to create a list of careers that are in high demand, the bill said. The list will be updated every five years. 

To apply for scholarships through the Delaware Higher Education Office, click here for a list of scholarship opportunities and instructions for submitting applications. 

Jarek Rutz can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz and on LinkedIn.

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