Just for Teachers: A Student Loan Forgiveness Program of your Own

Teachers, you are appreciated! Student loan forgiveness has been given much attention over the last few years, particularly Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). However, there are other loan forgiveness opportunities. One such program is Teacher Loan Forgiveness, which provides a path to either $5,000 or $17,000 of loan forgiveness for elementary, middle, and high school teachers. Like any other loan forgiveness program, there are several notable eligibility requirements.  

Time. To be eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF), you must complete five, consecutive and complete academic years of employment in a position considered to be full-time. Absences under military orders, the Family and Medical Leave Act and for certain post-secondary education create exceptions to this policy.

School. Loan forgiveness is for K12 teachers who work at a school or educational service agency designated as serving low income individuals. The Department of Education publishes a list of schools and agencies that meet this criteria. Removal of a school from this list does not disqualify the teacher from loan forgiveness, as long as one full year meets this eligibility criteria. 

Credentialing. To qualify for loan forgiveness, teachers must be considered highly qualified for the duration of their five qualifying years. This means they have at least a bachelor’s degree and have met their state’s certification requirements. 

Loan.  Loans must be Direct or FFEL Program loans made after October 1, 1998, and must have been made before the end of the five qualifying years discussed under the time requirement above. This means that new student loans obtained during these five years are eligible for forgiveness. 

Who gets the $17,000?  For teachers who meet the above criteria, there are two career paths to this higher benefit. One is teaching math or science at the secondary school level. The other is as a special education teacher at any level, elementary through high school.  All other teachers remain eligible for $5,000 in student loan forgiveness.  

What about TEACH grants?  The federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) program is a separate program from TLF and teachers can benefit from both.  TEACH offers grants up to $4,000 in annual financial aid to full-time undergraduate and graduate students who are enrolled in a teaching degree program.  Grant requirements include four years of service. TEACH and TLF service periods can run simultaneously. More information is available on the government student loan website. Here you can find additional details, application information, and links to the FAFSA. 

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