PLAINFIELD, Ind. (April 7, 2016) -- Governor Mike Pence and top state officials are now looking to the next generation of students to fill Indiana’s classrooms.
Thursday, the governor signed the New Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship bill into law in the Plainfield High School Auditorium.
He was joined on stage by more than a dozen Plainfield seniors planning to major in education.
The new education law will give Hoosier students access to up to $7,500 every year towards college tuition and books, as long as they pledge to teach in Indiana for at least their first five years.
Over four years, students can get up to $30,000.
“I think it’s a huge game changer for everybody,” said Katie Byrd, one of the seniors who stood on stage with the governor.
Lawmakers who passed the bipartisan legislation say they hope others think like Byrd.
“Here, the people of Indiana have said to young people now and going forward in our state, if you have a calling to teach in our classrooms, we’re going to partner with you,” Governor Pence said.
Indiana, like most across the nation, is struggling with a teacher shortage, especially in cities and rural areas. Over the last seven years, the number of teaching licenses issued in Indiana has declined by 33 percent.
The shortage began on college campuses across the state, where enrollment at schools of education has dropped significantly.
Marian University is one of the few where enrollment has grown, but President Dan Elsener acknowledges enrollment overall hasn’t kept up with the need for teachers. He says he thinks the new education law will be remembered in Indiana history as a great turnaround.
The former teacher expects the scholarship will increase the number of teaching students and improve the overall quality.
“The messages to young people, being an educator is a great thing, being an educator is a great investment, we want you in Indiana, we’ll invest in you in Indiana,” Elsner said.
Backing up that action with state money is so important to Elsener. He says the university plans to expand on the Indiana’s promise to students. Marian is set to match the state scholarship students get with money from the university.
Elsener wants to see other colleges in the state to do the same and believes Indiana school systems could start seeing some of the benefits of this bill within the next five years.