Partnership with AmeriCorps offers tuition grants for education students
March 3, 2016 — A new partnership between Bemidji State University’s Department of Professional Education and the AmeriCorps Promise Fellows program offers opportunities for teachers to earn college tuition grants of nearly $6,000 in exchange for qualifying AmeriCorps service.
Teachers who participate in the Promise Fellows program will be able to use its education grants toward tuition in Bemidji State’s Distributed Learning in Teacher Education (DLiTE) or FasTrack post-baccalaureate secondary initiative programs.
“Students can be in the middle of their program at Bemidji State and join the AmeriCorps program at any time,” said Dr. Barbara Bridges, professor of professional education. “With the great price we have here at BSU, it doesn’t cost much more than $5,000 to finish DLiTE. This partnership fits our model perfectly.”
Bridges says the AmeriCorps partnership not only adds another option for students who may be exploring ways to finish their degrees or obtain a teaching license, but also allows them to pursue those goals in BSU’s remarkably successful DLiTE and FasTrack programs.
“More than 5,000 people have been through the DLiTE program,” Bridges said. “Their average age is 35, they’re working and have families, and could never have obtained a teaching license without this program. And, if they’re good, they’re hired. We place over 80 percent of our graduates, which is unbelievable in elementary education.”
DLiTE is a cohort-based elementary education teacher licensure program which can be completed in six semesters. Each student in the program is paired with a mentor who teaches at an elementary school in the student’s community. The program supports students who wish to complete their bachelor’s degrees but are unable to relocate to Bemidji to pursue an on-campus degree. Nearly all of the program’s courses are delivered in a hybrid format, with most coursework completed online and three in-person meetings in Minneapolis each year. Students who complete the program will earn a bachelor of science degree in elementary education.
FasTrack, intended for secondary school teachers, offers an accelerated path to licensure for prospective teachers who may have an undergraduate or graduate degree in areas other than education. Students who enroll in FasTrack are eligible to begin teaching immediately on a limited license with the approval of local school districts and the State Board of Teaching.
Samantha Whillock, an elementary education major from Cottage Grove, is currently participating in the AmeriCorps program. Whitlock says the program has helped her gain hands-on teaching experience and build a network of friends and mentors that will benefit her for the remainder of her career.
“If it were not for the DLiTE program, I probably wouldn’t have been able to follow this dream,” she said. “DLiTE and AmeriCorps were the missing pieces of my puzzle. They have fueled my passion for education and have given me the knowledge and experience to feel confident that I’ll have a classroom of my own someday.”
To qualify for the Promise Fellows program, students must U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals or permanent residents who are able to commit to full-time 40-hour weeks for a total of 1,720 hours of service. The program provides a modest living allowance of $1,169 per month, pre-tax, and a $5,775 education award when successfully completing service. Participants also receive forbearance for qualified federal student loans, health and dental insurance, qualified childcare assistance and professional development training.