March 29, 2006 — Thanks to the territory's status as a Designated Teacher Shortage area, teachers and school professionals who teach certain subjects can have their student loans deferred or cancelled and may also have their teaching obligation reduced.
"This is great news for us at the department as the implications will have a great impact on teacher recruitment and retention activities. Veteran teachers as well as new teachers will be able to realize these benefits for each year that they are employed by the V.I. Department of Education," Human Resources director Alscess Lewis-Brown said in a news release.
Education Department spokesman Juel Anderson said because information in the press release concerning the program's specifics came from the federal government, she had no further information on the subject. She referred anyone with questions to the federal Web site.
Numerous efforts to contact the U.S. Department of Education for program clarification were unsuccessful.
According to the press release issued by the local Education Department, "a teacher who had no outstanding Federal Family Education Loan on July 1, 1987, but who had an outstanding FFEL of July 1, 1993, will qualify for a deferment of loan repayment under the federal Stafford Program anytime within the life of the respective loans. It also enables federal Perkins Loan borrowers who are full-time teachers in the areas of mathematics, science, foreign languages, bilingual education or any other field of expertise where the department determines there is a shortage of highly qualified teachers to qualify for cancellation of up to 100 percent of their loan; and further enables scholars to qualify for the reduction of teaching obligation under the Paul Douglas Teacher Scholarship Program."
The federal government designated the following areas as Teacher Shortage Areas in the Virgin Islands for the years 2004 to 2005 and 2005 to 2006. They are bilingual/English as a second language, computer science, elementary education, English, foreign languages, librarians, mathematics grades seven through 12, music, school nurse, school psychologists, science, and special education. Additionally, occupation, physical and speech therapists are included.
Teachers do not have to be certified or licensed.
"The department must consider you to be a full-time professional for the purposes of salary, tenure and retirement benefits," Lewis-Brown said in the news release.
Professionals in those areas may work in either public or private schools, but the private schools must be considered nonprofit.
To obtain a teaching deferment, teachers must submit a deferment form to their lender for each school year of teaching service. Teachers should contact the Human Resources Division to have the form certified.
Teachers are reminded that they must reapply each school year for a targeted teaching deferment.
For more information about teaching deferments for the FFEL program, consult the promissory note or contact the lender or guarantor holding the loan.
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