As part of statewide effort to recruit and retain high-quality teacher workforce, lawmakers eye incentive programs

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

New Hampshire lawmakers have proposed a number of programs aimed at addressing the state’s teacher shortage, including student loan forgiveness and financial incentives for current educators.

The proposed programs came at the recommendation of a state commission tasked with researching teacher shortages. The commission, a six-member legislative committee of lawmakers and the New Hampshire Department of Education (NHED), met in 2022 and found that schools around the state were struggling to fill teacher and support staff positions. The committee issued four recommendations, including incentive grants and funding for the NHED to better support research needs around the issue.

In response, lawmakers drafted four different bills, but the only one to pass has been the incentive program for student teachers (SB 140), and it was later tabled. The others were retained in their legislative committees to give members more time to deliberate them.

New Hampshire schools have faced severe workforce shortages over the past several years. Research from Reaching Higher NH and other organizations has found that lower wages and challenging school climates have contributed to the shortages. New Hampshire’s teacher salaries are lower than the national average and about $24,000 less than in neighboring Massachusetts, making recruitment and retention difficult for many school districts. And they make about 19% less than their non-teaching peers with college degrees, compounding already difficult hiring challenges for some districts.

The main strategies that the Committee considered to address these challenges were through incentive programs that would allow districts to come up with solutions such as increasing the minimum starting salary for teachers, considering bonuses, or implementing other locally-developed programs.

About the proposed incentive programs

House Bill 623 would create a loan forgiveness program within the university system for new teachers who work in critical shortage locations of the state.

Key takeaways on HB 623:

  • The loan forgiveness program is designed for college juniors and seniors who are attending a school within the University System of New Hampshire. Eligible students must majoring in a degree program that will allow them to be licensed in a critical shortage area, and would be required to be certified to teach within one year of graduation.
  • Eligible recipients would receive an award of $5,000 per year of their degree program, up to a maximum of $10,000 total, funded by the university.
  • Once licensed, eligible recipients would be required to teach for at least five consecutive years in a school designated to be within a critical teacher shortage location in order to be eligible for loan forgiveness. The loan would be forgiven at a rate of 20% per year as long as the teacher remains teaching in a critical shortage location.

Senate Bill 217 would create a loan forgiveness program for teachers who work in rural and underserved areas.

Key takeaways on SB 217:

  • The program would provide loan forgiveness for any eligible teacher currently working in a rural or underserved area. The teacher would not have had to attend a New Hampshire college or university, and any teacher that has qualifying outstanding student loan debt would be eligible, regardless of years of service.
  • Eligible schools would include those in rural areas and/or those who work in high-poverty schools, as determined by the NH Department of Education.
  • Loan forgiveness awards would be based on years of service within the eligible school
    • In the first year: $1,500
    • In the second year: $2,500
    • In the third year: $3,500
    • In the fourth year: $4,500
    • An eligible educator could only receive a maximum of $12,000 over four years.
  • Loan forgiveness awards would only be offered based on the availability of funding for the program, meaning some qualified applicants may not receive loan forgiveness awards if funding has been exhausted.

Senate Bill 140 would use federal COVID relief funds to establish a program in the NHED to provide stipends to teaching students in order to reduce the financial barriers of entering the educator workforce.

Key takeaways on SB 140:

  • The stipend would be awarded to eligible students who are placed in a student teaching program as part of their four-year undergraduate teacher preparation program.
  • In order to be eligible, students must meet certain financial criteria, must be enrolled in a New Hampshire college or university, and placed in a public school or community agency in New Hampshire.
  • Stipends will be $500 per week for a maximum of 16 weeks – for a total of $8,000

A Majority of Other State Already Provided Teacher Loan Forgiveness and/or Incentives to Students Entering the Education Workforce

According to Reaching Higher NH, 26 states already provide some form of loan forgiveness and/or incentive to educators. Nearly all states that provide these programs pay for them by including their costs within the state budgets. However, the US Department of Education allows the use of federal COVID relief aid, such as the ESSER, and neighboring states to New Hampshire provide teacher loan forgiveness and Incentives.

Read our analysis here:

Proposed Bills Come After Recommendations from The Committee to Study New Hampshire Teacher Shortages and Recruitment Incentives

The teacher loan forgiveness and incentive proposals in the House and Senate come on the heels of recommendations of The Committee to Study New Hampshire Teacher Shortages and Recruitment Incentives. In December 2022, the committee recommended the creation of stipends to incentivize new teachers to stay in the state.

The Committee to Study New Hampshire Teacher Shortages and Recruitment Incentives was created during the 2022 legislative session in response to reports that schools around the state were struggling to fill teacher and support staff positions. The group is tasked with examining the current state of the educator workforce and identifying strategies for recruiting and retaining teachers of color and educators to work in rural and underserved school districts.

Since August 2022, the Committee has met six times and heard a variety of perspectives, including input from the state’s three diversity coordinators, representatives from the Retirement System of New Hampshire, superintendents, CTE directors, and representatives from state higher education institutions.

The Committee has until November 2023 to file an official report and issue recommendations.

Please email Matt Gerding at with any questions.