Oklahoma faces a teacher shortage as school districts struggle to attract more staff.
Tulsa Community College reported seeing progress in developing future teachers who graduate virtually debt-free.
TCC said there is a steady number of students earning an education degree.
These students qualify for several programs that pay virtually all of their tuition and even come with a mentor.
Lily Vazquez from Tulsa worked as a tutor while studying full time at TCC.
She earned her associate’s degree in elementary education and has no debt.
“You can do it without going into debt,” Vazquez said. “Really look, and there are people who want to help you. That’s definitely an advantage.”
TCC said 60 students recently graduated in early childhood and primary education.
Debbie Deibert, coordinator of TCC’s child development and education program, said that number has remained stable for the past three years.
“What I hear from our students is that they love Oklahoma, they love the Tulsa area and they plan to stay, which is encouraging because I know a lot of them are going back to their districts. local schools to teach,” Deibert said.
Deibert said the Tulsa Achieves Scholarship provides all eligible Tulsa County high school graduates with full tuition and fees.
There is also a scholarship for those studying early childhood, and students graduating from this program can also go to OU Tulsa for free if they later work in education in Oklahoma for four years.
“I think the salary is still competitive in other states,” Deibert said. “Hopefully that gets addressed at some point in Oklahoma, that we become the competitor, that the students come here.”
As for Vazquez, the 20-year-old will be working toward earning her bachelor’s degree at Northeastern State University Broken Arrow.
“They offer a scholarship that pays for the four years in return, you have to teach in a school for five years, and so that’s what I’m going to do, so I’m going to get my bachelor’s degree debt-free,” Vazquez explained. .
TCC said there is no limit to the number of scholarships awarded and the college hopes more students will take advantage of the programs.