By Chris Landers
BALTIMORE – Lt. Gov. Michael S.Steele and the Sallie Mae student loan company are hoping that a new program will entice Maryland nursing students to set up shop in the state after graduation and help ease a statewide shortage of nurses.
Under the new program, Sallie Mae would forgive 10 percent of a student loan from a Maryland university if the student agrees to work full time in the state for three years after graduation. Maryland, and the nation, are experiencing a nursing shortage, due in part to a shortage of instructors to train them in nursing schools.
The loan forgiveness program would extend to higher degrees, allowing masters and P.H.D. students to take advantage of it.
“We need good nurses,” Steele said. “I’m really excited about the opportunity this provides to put more nurses on the ground.”
In 2003, there was a statewide shortage of 3,000 nurses, according to a study by the Center for Health Workforce Development at the University of Maryland. David Ramsay, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, called the current situation a “state and national crisis” and said there is still a “significant” shortage of faculty.
A study released in March by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing found that in fall of 2004 almost 30,000 prospective students were turned away from undergraduate nursing programs around the country due to lack of space and qualified teachers.
In 2003, the most recent year for which data was readily available, nearly 2,000 qualified applicants were turned away from Maryland’s nursing programs. Demand for registered nurses is expected to grow as the general population ages. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said they expected nursing to add more jobs than any other profession by the year 2012.
The new program, dubbed Care for Maryland, and a companion program for teachers, Teach for Maryland, are both open to students who have received loans since July 2005 and work full time in those fields in the state.
“Our teachers and nurses are everyday heroes,” said Sallie Mae executive vice president Kevin Moehn. “We must encourage more college students to pursue teaching and nursing careers.”
The program is the second of its kind in the country. In February, Sallie Mae announced a similar repayment program for Virginia nursing and teaching students.