HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Pennsylvania state agency received thousands of applications Thursday for the state’s first-ever student-teacher stipends, many times more than the available stipends approved by lawmakers last year as a way to help fill a teacher shortage.

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency reported receiving 3,000 applications by 11 a.m., just two hours after the window for applications opened. The $10 million approved by lawmakers for the stipends last year, however, was only expected to serve about 650 student-teachers.

Stipends are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, the agency said.

To encourage more college students to become teachers, lawmakers created a program to give a stipend of at least $15,000 to student-teachers in districts that attract fewer student-teachers or have a high rate of open teaching positions. A student-teacher in other districts would receive a minimum stipend of $10,000.

Stipend recipients must commit to teaching in Pennsylvania for three years after completing their teaching certification.

The stipends are aimed at easing a hardship for college students finishing up a teaching degree who currently must teach in schools for 12 weeks without pay.

Numerous schools are having difficulty hiring or retaining teachers, and that student-teaching requirement prompts some college students to switch degree programs and pursue a different career, teachers’ unions say.

The state’s largest teachers’ union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said the response to the stipends shattered expectations.

“Unfortunately, this astonishing demand means that most students who applied for stipends won’t get them, because there is only $10 million available for the program this year,» the union’s president, Aaron Chapin, said in a statement.

Chapin said the state must increase funding for the program to $75 million next year to make sure every student-teacher who needs a stipend can get one.


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