Oklahoma is dealing with a shortage in teachers as school districts struggle to attract more staff.
Tulsa Community College reported seeing progress in developing future teachers who are graduating practically debt free.
TCC said there is a steady number of students there graduating with degrees in education.
Those students are qualified for several programs that pay for practically all their schooling and even come with a mentor.
Lily Vazquez of Tulsa has been working as a tutor while studying full time at TCC.
She graduated with her associate’s degree in elementary education and is debt free.
“You can do it without being in debt,” said Vazquez. “Just really look, and there’s people out there that want to help you. It’s definitely an advantage.”
TCC said 60 students recently graduated with degrees in early childhood and elementary education.
Debbie Deibert, TCC child development and education program coordinator, said this number has been holding steady the last 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 that I know many of them are returning to their local school districts to teach,” said Deibert.
Deibert said the Tulsa Achieves Scholarship provides every eligible graduating high school senior in Tulsa County full tuition and fees.
There is also scholarship for those studying early childhood, and students who graduate from that program can also go to OU Tulsa for free if they later work in education in Oklahoma for four years.
“I think pay is always competitive in other states,” said Deibert. “I’m hopeful that will be addressed at some point in Oklahoma, that we become the competitor, that students are coming here.”
As for Vazquez, the 20-year-old will work toward 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’ll be doing, so I’ll be graduating with my bachelor’s with debt free,” explained Vazquez.
TCC said there is no limit on how many scholarships are given out, and the college hopes more students will take advantage of the programs.