Call for Action follow-up: Teacher Pledge helps forgive your student loans

MADISON, Wis. — A new program at the University of Wisconsin is helping more teachers pay off their student loans in exchange for committing to state schools.

News 3 Now discovered the Teacher Pledge at UW-Madison in the process of answering a Madison educator’s Call for Action, after she struggled to get her student loans forgiven through a federal program. Despite new reforms, those programs are often criticized for being cumbersome, and applicant are rarely successful. UW-Madison’s School of Education recognized that and decided to do something about it with their own program.

The Teacher Pledge promises to pay the equivalent of in-state tuition and fees, testing, and licensing costs for all UW’s education students — if they pledge to work at a Wisconsin school for at least 3 years after graduation. UW’s Kimber Wilkerson describes how the program solves two problems at once.

“Because it’s relatively small compared to a federal loan forgiveness program, we can be more nimble,” she said. “We can make corrections if we see something as a sticking point.”

RELATED: Call for Action: How hard is it to get your student loans forgiven?

It takes critiques of federal loan forgiveness programs into consideration and is designed to be simpler to apply to, and more expansive – helping more students pay for school. Additionally, with that Wisconsin teaching requirement, it helps local schools with persistent staff shortages.

“We are thrilled that means those teachers are saying up front they plan to teach in the state of Wisconsin,” Wilkerson said.

The program has funding for six years and is two years in. So far, numbers are growing. Eighty percent of students pursuing their masters in education are enrolled in the Teacher Pledge, meaning those teachers will commit to staying in Wisconsin for years to come.

Camryn Booms is one of those students. Originally from Michigan, she says she never considering moving to Wisconsin – until she heard of the Teacher Pledge.

“The extra help made the difference for me, and I know my classmates, too,” she said.

Booms is working in several Madison schools as part of her continuing education and says she’s excited to stay here for years to come.

Learn more about the Teacher Pledge and enroll in the program here.