State Senate bill targets shortage of nursing teachers

Proposed expansion of loan forgiveness program could help recruit faculty at Colorado Springs, Anschutz

A bill that would make the existing CollegeInvest nurse teacher loan forgiveness program more attractive to more students has passed its first hurdle in the Colorado Senate. The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved the bill today; it moves on to the Senate Appropriations Committee at a date to be determined.

The University of Colorado is working with CollegeInvest, other higher education institutions, the governor's office and bill sponsors Rep. Sara Gagliardi (D-Arvada) and Sen. Abel Tapia (D-Pueblo) to extend eligibility requirements for the program. Nursing programs at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the Anschutz Medical Campus could then promote the incentive as a recruiting tool when hiring new faculty.

In the fall of 2009, the state's Legislative Audit Committee determined the existing nurse loan forgiveness program had limited participation, which was blamed partly on overly restrictive eligibility requirements.

The new legislation would only require that a nursing faculty member be teaching half-time, rather than the old requirement of full-time, in order to take advantage of the loan forgiveness. To be eligible, a nursing teacher would need to begin the job within four years of completion of the advanced degree.

The program provides up to $20,000 in loan reimbursement for someone who teaches nursing in a higher-education institution for a minimum of five years. Because salaries for nurse faculty are lower than those offered in hospitals and medical offices, schools find it difficult to fill teaching positions. The lack of teachers exacerbates the nursing shortage.