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October 3, 2006

New $20 million loan-forgiveness program to encourage Stanford graduates to become K-12 teachers

A $10 million gift matched by Stanford will create a $20 million loan-forgiveness program at the university's School of Education to encourage students to become K-12 teachers.

The new program will significantly reduce the debt for students enrolled in the yearlong Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP) who, upon graduation, enter the teaching profession for at least four years. It was made possible by a $10 million gift from Stanford alumna Judy Avery, chair of the Durfee Foundation of Santa Monica, Calif., that will be matched by a $10 million allocation from Stanford.

Under the program, half of a STEP student's loan will be "forgiven"—effectively cancelled—when the graduate has taught for two years. After four years, the loan balance will be forgiven. Research has shown that a teacher who pursues teaching for three years or more is likely to stay in the field.

Loan-forgiveness programs are common in law and business, but virtually non-existent in education schools, according to Deborah Stipek, the I. James Quillen Dean of the Stanford School of Education.

"Well-trained teachers are desperately needed in low-income communities," said Stipek, "and the teachers most likely to teach in and remain in these communities grew up in them. If we are to attract promising prospective teachers from these communities, we must have a way to make a Stanford degree affordable. Judy's gift—and the university's matching commitment—gives us that opportunity."

"Graduates of STEP are among the nation's best prepared teachers, and I want to encourage them to apply their skills to help improve K-12 education in our country," said Avery. "It would be so meaningful if others were inspired to join me in addressing this issue. My hope is that the program eventually will be expanded to include undergraduates who are interested in pursuing this and other careers in public service."

Avery, a member of the Class of 1959, plans to name the fund in honor of her mother, Dorothy Durfee Avery, a public schoolteacher whose parents, Ulysses Grant and Abbie Birch Durfee, graduated from Stanford in 1899 and 1900. Ulysses Grant Durfee was assistant superintendent of Los Angeles County schools for many years and his wife served as a teacher and school principal.

Stanford decided to match Avery's gift to emphasize the university's commitment to K-12 education.

"Ensuring that every child in the United States has a high quality K-12 education is a vital goal for our country; we are not meeting that goal in many parts of our country," said Stanford President John Hennessy. "As a first step, we must recruit talented and well-prepared teachers. This new program will permit Stanford to support visionary and committed young people who want to undertake one of the most important roles we have in our society. I am delighted that with Judy Avery's help, we can support this noble cause."

Any student enrolling in STEP who plans to teach in a public school will be eligible to apply for the program. Students teaching in private schools that benefit underserved communities also will be considered. Qualified students will receive a loan from the School of Education in conjunction with other sources of support to meet STEP program expenses that, combined with books and living expenses, can climb as high as $65,000. Last year, 75 percent of STEP's 90 students had some type of loan.

STEP students earn both a Master of Arts degree in education and a preliminary California teaching credential that prepares them to teach in elementary or secondary classrooms. Recently, STEP was praised in a national study by Arthur Levine, former president of Teachers College at Columbia University, as one of only four exemplary model teacher education programs in the nation.

Maria Rodriguez, who received her master's degree from STEP last year, says financial aid allowed her to return to teach in her native Watsonville, where she grew up the daughter of immigrant farm workers.

"STEP prepared me well, and now I am here to give Watsonville students the education and guidance to help them succeed in life," she said. "This program should have a tremendous impact on enabling more well-trained teachers to serve students like mine."



Lisa Trei, News Service: (650) 725-0224,


Rebecca Tseng Smith, School of Education: (650) 723-1383,

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