Future minority teachers can get aid

By Eric Krol

A law recently signed by Gov. Jim Edgar might bring financial relief for future minority teachers.

Although applications are not yet available, Hispanic and African-American students majoring in education can apply for up to $5,000 in aid from the Minority Teachers of Illinois scholarship aid program.

Edgar signed the bill Sept. 6, which provides $1 million this school year for the scholarships.

Because Edgar signed the bill at such a late date, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) could not start the program, said Charles Morris, Board of Regents vice president for Academic Affairs.

“We can’t start moving until he signs on the dotted line,” ISAC Public Information Director Robert Clement said.

At last week’s Regents meeting, Morris said applications might be available Nov. 1, but Clement said “we’re working as fast as we can. Applications will be available later this fall.”

Under the plan, students would have to meet certain requirements, said Cheryl Peck, Regents Chancellor’s assistant.

Peck said application requirements include being a Hispanic or African-American education major with sophomore standing, graduation in the top 20 percent of their high school class and an agreement upon graduation to teach in state schools with minority enrollments of at least 30 percent one year for every year they accept the scholarship. Scholarships are limited to four years.

“It is not unusual to have a condition in a grant program,” Clement said.

It provides a guarantee for “service,” or a return on the state’s investment, he added.

The program was approved by the state legislature last year as a scholarship program for minority males but remained unfunded.

The program broadened this year to include females, but at least 30 percent of the scholarships will go to male minority students.

Morris said the 30 percent male clause is because of the greater need of male minority teachers in the classroom.

The awards are offered on “a first come-first serve basis,” Morris said.

Peck said applications will be available at the Financial Aid Office as soon as they are made available.

Because the program starts this year, the deadline will come up rather soon, Clement said.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Forest Etheridge, R-Aurora.

The Regency system formed a task force in 1990 to address the minority teacher problem.