Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Teachers
In 2016, there are some excellent Student Loan Forgiveness Programs available to teachers.
You might be surprised to find out just how much money you’ll be able to save via the Federally-funded Teacher loan forgiveness programs, because some of these offers tens of thousands of dollars in savings.
The good news is that almost anyone who serves in some capacity as a teacher will be able to qualify for one or more of these programs.
Read on to find out which programs are available to you, how much money you’ll be able to save, and how you can apply for each program.
Federal Loan Forgiveness for Teachers
One of the best ways to reduce your student loan debt is to make yourself eligible to participate in one of the federal teacher loan forgiveness programs.
Each program has different requirements, and most of them are offered only to individuals with specific types of loans, so make sure that you fully understand what’s available before you start counting up the amount of money you’ll be able to save.
Here are all of the Federal forgiveness programs for teachers currently available in 2016:
1. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (or PSLF) wasn’t created specifically to offer loan forgiveness for teachers, but it certainly can be used to do just that.
Eligibility requirements are a bit complicated, but the basic jist of the program is that you have to work in the field of healthcare, education, government service, or for some third party (private or non-profit organization) that supports those fields, and that you’ll need to make 120 qualifying monthly payments on your debt before you’re eligible to have any of the remaining debt cancelled.
For the full details, please visit my page about the PSLF Program here.
2. Federal TEACH Grants
The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program was created by Congress and provides up to $4,000 per year for those teachers with qualifying student loans who intend to teach in public or private elementary and secondary schools that primarily serve students from low-income families.
TEACH Grants are the only form of loan forgiveness provided to teachers before they’ve taken on any debt (most loan forgiveness benefits are offered after the debt has been accumulated)
TEACH Grants provide up to $4,000 a year in Federal financial assistance to college students who are:
- Enrolled in a program that will lead to earning a teaching credential
- Planning to teach full-time for at least 4 years
- Planning to spend those 4 years teaching in a “high-need” field at an educational facility which primarily serves low-income families
4 years is a long time to work in a bad area, but for $4,000 a year during both undergraduate and graduate studies, the savings can rack up quickly, so you can see what makes this program so attractive.
While teaching underprivileged children in impoverished neighborhoods might not be your dream job, it certainly could help you reduce your student loan debt, and it will absolutely give you the skills you need to succeed in schools found in more affluent areas.
For additional details on the Federal TEACH Grants Program, please visit my page about them here.
3. Perkins Loan Forgiveness (Teacher Loan Cancellation)
Perkins Loan Forgiveness is also known as Teacher Loan Cancellation, and is a program that offers complete loan forgiveness for teachers who:
- Serve at least one year in a full-time educational role
- Serve that year at a school that primarily provides education for low-income families, or as a special education teacher, or as a teacher working in an area that’s been deemed to have a shortage of qualified personnel by a state education agency (math, science, foreign languages, etc.).
The downside to the Perkins Loan Forgiveness Program is that it’s only available to people with Perkins Loans, which is a small population of people.
However, if you do qualify for the program, the benefits are quite good, especially if you can stick it out at a bad school for five or more years of qualifying service, because the percentage of your loan that’s forgiven increases in time according to this schedule:
- 15% of your loan is cancelled after 1 or 2 years
- 20% of your loan is cancelled after 3 or 4 years
- 30% of your loan is cancelled after 5 years
One big benefit to the Perkins Loan Forgiveness Program is that you are automatically eligible for Federal Student Loan Deferments while you’re teaching in a qualified position.
When you get a Deferment, it’s kind of like hitting the pause button your loan, because your monthly payments won’t be due for as long as the deferment period lasts, meaning that you can use that money for other costs like rent, food, bills or whatever else you want to spend it on.
This benefit is extremely useful, especially as most graduates come out of college with very little cash on hand. Being able to start savings and emergency money accounts before you need to start paying back that Perkins Loan could seriously help you find financial success.
To coordinate loan deferments, you’ll have to make arrangements with the school that issued your Perkins loan (ask them about setting up loan deferments when you request an application for the program!).
For details on Perkins Loan Forgiveness, please visit my page about Teacher Loan Cancellation here.
4. Stafford Loan Forgiveness
The Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program offers up to $17,500 of loan forgiveness to teachers with qualifying Stafford Loans.
$17,500 is a lot of money, which makes this program quite popular, but the kicker here is that it’s not a very easy program to qualify for.
In fact, getting approval to receive Stafford Loan Forgiveness benefits requires some pretty serious commitment, as the eligibility guidelines state that you must:
- Not have any Direct Loans or FEEL Program Loans before October 1st, 1998
- Not be in default on your qualifying loan
- Be employed full-time for 5 complete and consecutive years by an elementary or secondary school that qualifies for Title 1 funds, has 30% of children that qualify for Title 1 services, or is listed in the Annual Directory of Designated Low-Income Schools
But on the bright side, the Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program allows you to take advantage of one of the many Federal Student Loan Forbearance Programs during all five of those years you were teaching, which could significantly improve your short-term financial situation, especially if you’re facing difficulties with making payments.
Stafford Loan Forgiveness has one additional benefit over Perkins Loan Cancellations in that you can stack these benefits with the Iowa Student Loan Teacher Education Loan Forgiveness Program, so that you’re receiving benefits of both programs at the same time!
For additional details on how the Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program works, please go here.
State Loan Forgiveness Programs for Teachers
Some states (notably Iowa) also offer teacher loan forgiveness programs, though it’s obviously harder to qualify for these programs, since they are only offered to residents of the state sponsoring the program.
These can be just as useful as the federal loan forgiveness programs, however, and can allow you to save significantly more money if you’re able to ‘double dip’, taking loan forgiveness program benefits from both a Federal and state-sponsored program at the same time.
As of 2014, here are the available state-sponsored forgiveness programs for teachers:
1. The Iowa Teacher Shortage Loan Forgiveness Program
The Iowa Teacher loan forgiveness program is only eligible to those of you who are willing to move to Iowa and take up a qualified teaching position in the state, but since the benefits are pretty substantial, and easy to qualify for, it may be worth your consideration.
You don’t apply to this program until after you’ve graduate from school, and you must be a fully licensed teacher to be eligible for its benefits, along with teaching in a shortage area (as designated not by Federal agencies, but by the Iowa Department of Education).
This program offers up to $7,534 of forgiveness for Federal Stafford Loans after you’ve completed just a single year of teaching, unlike the other programs above which all require at least 5 years of teaching before you achieve full eligibility.
Since this program only requires a single year of teaching to receive benefits, it’s definitely something you’ll want to think about.
If you happen to be in Iowa already, or in a neighboring state, then there’s virtually no reason for you to jump on board, as you should consider these benefits to be virtually identical to receiving a $7,500 raise!
Many teachers are struggling with student loan debt, and many of them still aren’t aware of the existence of the excellent forgiveness benefits available to them.
Please, help me out by spreading the word that these programs exist. Post a link to this page to your Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ account, and let your colleagues in on the best kept secret in student loans.
The more people that find out about these programs, the harder time Congress will have de-funding them when it comes time to cut budgets.
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