The Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program

In 2017, Teacher Loan Forgiveness remains available to thousands of teachers across the country via the Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program.

What makes the Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program so special? Stafford Loans allow you to borrow money at a low interest rate, then qualify for total loan forgiveness after you’ve completed enough years teaching as a “fully-qualified teacher”.

If you’ve taken out a Stafford Loan, or if you’re planning on becoming a teacher and looking for the best opportunity to qualify for Teacher Loan Forgiveness Benefits, then you’ll definitely want to read through the entirety of this page, as I’ll teach you how to maximize your available benefits.

If you’re just looking for a link to the 2017 Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application Form, then you can find that here.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness for Federal Stafford Loans

Stafford Loan Forgiveness remains one of the best student loan forgiveness programs available to teachers, with excellent forgiveness benefits to anyone that satisfies the eligibility restrictions of the program.

The Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program was created to encourage highly qualified college graduates to become teachers, or to continue teaching, and to seek out advanced degrees in niche topic areas.

And Stafford Loan Forgiveness is no small benefit, because this program provides up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness for teachers who have taken out Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, or Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans.

To be eligible for Stafford Loan Forgiveness, you must agree to teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years at a qualifying elementary school, secondary school or an educational service agency that primarily serves low-income families.

Please note that those individuals with PLUS loans are not eligible to participate in the Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.

Eligibility Requirements for Stafford Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Not everyone with qualifying loans will be able to receive Stafford Loan Forgiveness.

In fact, anyone with Private loans, and even many teachers with Federal student loans won’t be able to take advantage of this program, because the eligibility conditions are quite strict.

To receive Stafford Loan Forgiveness benefits, you must:

  • Not have had an outstanding balance on Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loan (FEEL) Program loans as of October 1st, 1998, or on the date that you obtained a Direct Loan or FEEL Program loan after October 1st, 1998.
  • Not be in default on a subsidized or unsubsidized loan, unless you have already made repayment arrangements with the lender of your defaulted loan. Get information on how to made approved loan repayment arrangements here.
  • Have loans that you want to receive forgiveness on which were not made before the end of your five years of qualifying teaching service. This means that you can’t get forgiveness for loans you take out after you’ve already satisfied the requirements of the program.
  • Not count time you spent teaching through AmeriCorps to satisfy your required five years of teaching for Teacher Loan Forgiveness. You cannot double-dip with AmeriCorps teaching experience. Your five years must come from outside of time spent working with AmeriCorps.
  • Be employed full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years, with at least one of those years having been after the 1997-1998 academic year. For those of you either in school, or planning to attend school now, this will not be an issue.
  • Be employed at an elementary or secondary school that satisfies at least one of the following conditions:

But that’s not all, because to qualify for the Stafford loan forgiveness benefits, your school also has to satisfy some pretty stringent eligibility conditions, including:

  1. The school must be in a school district that qualifies for Title 1 funds, under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
  2. The school must have been selected by the Department of Education based on a determination that at least 30% of the school’s total enrollment is comprised of children who qualify for services offered under Title 1
  3. The school must be listed in the Government’s Annual Directory of Designated Low-Income Schools for Teacher Cancellation Benefits (find that list here). Any school operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) or on an Indian reservation by a tribal group under contract with the BIE will also qualify for this requirement.
  • If your school meets the requirements of one of the preceeding conditions for at least one year of your service there, but fails to meet those requirements in following years, then you may still be able to count following years toward your five years of required service.

Are All Teachers Eligible?

As I mentioned above, no. And that’s where most people go wrong. Almost everyone I talk to thinks that simply being a teacher entitles you to some form of loan forgiveness benefits, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

To qualify for Stafford Loan Forgiveness benefits, you’ve got to meet some particular eligibility conditions, including meeting the Government’s approved definition of a “Highly Qualified Teacher”.

According to the rules of the program, you will only count as a “Highly Qualified Teacher” if you provide direct classroom teaching, or classroom-like teaching in a non-classroom setting (like a library, gymnasium, etc.).

If you do not satisfy these requirements, then you will not be able to receive Stafford Loan Forgiveness benefits.

The Federal Government has developed a strict definition of who counts as “Highly Qualified Teacher”, and only those individuals who satisfy this description will be available for receiving benefits under the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program.

What is a “Highly Qualified Teacher”?

To count as a Highly Qualified Teacher you must:

  • Have earned full state certification as a teacher or passed your state’s teacher licensing examination and hold a license to teach in your state, unless you’re teaching at a public charter school, in which case you must meet the requirements as established by your state’s public charter school laws, and
  • Not have had certification or licensure requirements waived on an any basis, be that due to emergencies, temporary or provisional reasons.

In addition to the requirements outlined above, there are additional requirements that are different for new and experienced teachers at the elementary and secondary school levels.:

New Elementary School Teachers must also:

  • Hold at least a bachelor’s level degree, and
  • Demonstrate, by passing a state test, that they have achieved adequate subject knowledge and teaching skills in mathematics, reading, writing, and other areas of basic elementary school cirriculum

New Middle or Secondary School Teachers must also:

  • Hold at least a bachelor’s level degree, and
  • Demonstrate a high level of knowledge and competency to teach in every academic subject which they are responsible for teaching by either passing a state certified test in each academic subject or receiving a passing level of performance on state-required certification or licensing tests, or
  • Successfully complete a graduate degree program, course work equivalent to an undergraduate academic major, or accredited advanced certification or credential programs in the academic subjects that they teach

Experienced Elementary, Middle or Secondary School Teachers must also:

  • Hold at least a bachelor’s level degree, and
  • Meet the standards required for teachers who are new to the profession, or
  • Demonstrate competence in all academic subjects that he or she teaches by passing a high objective uniform state standard of evaluation that:
  1. Was created by the state to test knowledge of grade-appropriate subject matter and teaching skills
  2. Challenges state academic content and student academic achievement standards, and was developed by core content specialists, teachers, principals and school administrators
  3. Provides objective, clear information to prove the teacher has attained core content knowledge in each of the academic areas that they are responsible for teaching
  4. Is applied uniformly to all teachers in the state who teach the same academic subject and at the same grade level
  5. Takes into consideration the time that teachers have been teaching in their specific academic subjects
  6. Is made available to the public on a by-request basis

One thing to note is that all Special Education teachers (whether or not they meet the “Highly Qualified Teacher” considerations above) do qualify for Stafford Loan Forgiveness.

What Are The Time Requirements?

To qualify for Stafford Loan Forgiveness benefits, you must teach for five complete and consecutive academic years at a school who primarily serves low-income students.

If you fail to satisfy this condition (by taking a year off, or teaching for less than five years), then you will compromise your eligibility.

This is one of the most important considerations to keep in mind, because any violation from this rule will ruin your chance at receiving loan forgiveness benefits.

For Teaching Service Completed Before October 30th, 2004:

If you began your five complete and consecutive years of qualified teaching before October 30th, 2004:

You will be eligible for up to $5,000 in student loan forgiveness benefits if you can prove (this must be certified by the chief administrative officer from the school where you taught) that you were:

  • Serving as a full-time elementary school teacher who taught mathematics, reading, writing or other elementary school curriculum, or
  • Serving as a full-time secondary school teacher who taught in a subject area related to your college degree

You will be eligible for up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness benefits if you can prove (again, it must be certified) that you were:

  • Serving as a ‘highly-qualified’ teacher working full-time in mathematics or science at an eligible secondary school, or
  • Serving as a ‘highly-qualified’ teacher working full-time in special education, with your primary responsibilities being to provide special education to children with disabilities

For Teaching Service Beginning After October 30th, 2004

If you began your five complete and consecutive years of qualified teaching after October 30th, 2004:

You will be eligible for up to $5,000 in student loan forgiveness benefits if you can prove (as certified) that you were serving as a highly-qualified teacher working full-time in an eligible elementary or secondary school

You will be eligible for up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness benefits if you can prove (as certified) that you were:

  • Serving as a ‘highly-qualified’ teacher working full-time in mathematics or science at an eligible secondary school, or
  • Serving as a ‘highly-qualified’ teacher working full-time in special education, with your primary responsibilities being to provide special education to children with disabilities

What Happens if I Miss an Academic Year?

If, for any reason, you were or are unable to complete one of your full academic years of teaching within the five consecutive years period, then you may only count that year toward your requirements if:

  • You were able to complete at least half of the incomplete academic year
  • Your employer states (certified in writing) that they considered you to have fulfilled your contract requirements for that academic year in regards to your salary increases, tenure and retirement plan, and
  • You were unable to finish the academic year because:
  1. You returned to postsecondary education on at least a half-time basis to learn about an area of study related to qualified teaching service as outlined above, or
  2. You experienced a medical condition covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (find that here), or
  3. You were called or ordered to active duty status as a member the Armed Forces reserves for at least 30 days

What is a Low-Income School?

The Federal Government determines which schools count as “Low-Income Schools”, so even if you think that your’e serving at a qualifying institution, you’ll have to make sure that they agree.

To find out if your school qualifies for the Low-Income School requirement, you’ll need to view the annual U.S. Department of Education’s official list of Low-Income Elementary and Secondary Schools.

You can find the current 2017 list of low-income schools online here, but you will need to search for the year or years that you have been employed as a teacher to make sure that the school qualifies during the time period that you were teaching.

If you think your school should qualify, but don’t see it on the list, the Federal Government requests that you contact the State Education Agency Contact for your state to find out why they haven’t been included in the list.

To do that, use the list of State Education Agency Contacts, here.

What if I Teach at an Educational Service Agency?

It is possible to qualify for Stafford Loan Forgiveness even if you don’t teach at an actual school, but if you are employed by a qualified Educational Service Agency that primarily serves low-income students.

You will need to be able to prove, in writing, that your employer satisfies the same eligibility requirements, however, and it is a much more involved process than simply picking a school from the list of Federally sanctioned list of low-income schools.

How do I Apply for Stafford Loan Forgiveness?

To officially apply for the program, you will have to have already completed your five-year teaching requirement, so make sure that you are doing this in the proper order.

Once you’ve satisfied the eligibility conditions, you should download and fill out the official 2016 Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application (which you can find here).

Please keep in mind that you will need to speak with the chief administrative officer from the school at which you taught, since only they can fill out the certification section required to receive benefits.

Also note that if your qualified teaching experience took place at multiple schools, then you will need to have the chief administrative officers from each of those schools certify your eligibility to receive Stafford Loan Forgiveness benefits.

Should you need to receive certification from multiple chief administrative officers, please provide the additional certifications on a separate piece of paper, and submit that along with your completed application.

To submit your application, you will need to provide all the completed materials to your loan servicer (that’s whoever holds or services your qualifying student loan – typically the same people that you send your monthly checks to).

If your loans are held by multiple lenders, then you will need to submit separate applications to each of those lenders.

Stafford Loan Forgiveness Fact Sheet

Since Stafford Loan Forgiveness is quite complicated, there are bound to be confusions regarding some of the details for how this program works.

Fortunately, the Federal Government has created a simple fact sheet (which you can find here) that summarizes the eligibility requirements, benefits, and applications process.

Have Additional Questions?

If you have any other questions about the Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program, please feel free to ask them in the comments section below.

I will do my best to answer any questions received within 24 hours.

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Thank you for visiting, and thank you for your help!

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Tim's experience struggling with crushing student loan debt led him to create the website Forget Student Loan Debt, where he offers advice on paying off student loans as quickly, and cheaply, as possible. His new website Forget Tax Debt, offers similar advice to people with back tax problems.

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  1. Nikki Scott says:

    My husband is a PE teacher at a a low income school, starting his 5th consecutive year. His licensure is in PE and health but he teaches special education kids. Would he qualify for the 17500? The distinction between special ed and physical education is blurry.

    • Hi Nikki,

      Yes, it is pretty blurry, so I would try checking with either the HR person on campus or call the Student Loam Ombudsman Group. The Ombudsman are lawyers who provide free advice about Federal student loans, and you can reach them here.

  2. Jennifer Patrick says:

    I received Teacher Loan Forgiveness on my undergraduate loan 17 years ago. I took out a new loan to complete my graduate work after the other loan was paid in full. Can I get Teacher Loan Forgiveness on this second loan?

  3. Jennifer Joyce says:

    I was denied Teacher Loan Forgiveness because they said that I did not fill out “Section 3: Previous Loan Forgiveness Information” correctly. I am a 10th year Mathmatics teacher in a Title 1 school. I was awarded $4,725 for one year of service through AmeriCorps. Do you know if the “Loan Holder Name” should be AmeriCorps? When it was denied, I put Pace University (the institution I gave the money to).

    Thank you in advance for your help.

  4. I have completed 3 years of teaching special education in a low income school. After my 5th year, I should be able to apply for the loan forgiveness correct? What if my student loan is greater than $17,500? Will they still put the $17,500 towards my loan and I’ll continue repaying the remaining balance? I had just seen someone’s post earlier that said they were denied because they had a balance of more than $17,500 and I wanted to know if you’ve heard of this happening to anyone else?
    Thank you for this blog, it is very helpful and helps answers a lot of questions!!

    • Hi Megan

      Yes – after the 5th year, you’ll receive the benefit. If your loan is over $17,500, then yes, they apply that much toward forgiveness and you’re responsible for the remainder.

      You definitely won’t be denied just because your loan is larger than the total amount authorized – you’ll get UP TO that amount forgiven. Whoever told you they were denied for having a larger loan was probably denied for some other reason and didn’t fully understand what happened.

  5. I have a question regarding the highly qualified requirements. I was hired as a special education teacher under a provisional license and have since become fully licensed. I have worked for 6 years as a special education teacher in a title 1 school.

    My question is: Does my 5 year timeline begin when I became fully licensed, or do I not qualify at all for this loan forgiveness?

    • Hi Catie,

      I think your timeline begins when you became fully licensed, but to find out for sure, contact your loan servicer. They will be able to tell you without any doubts.

  6. Mary Chidester says:

    Hello, Tim,
    Thank you for putting this info site together.
    I have read through a majority of the previous questions and answers, However, I am still unsure about a question I have based on my circumstances (I apologize in advance if this was answered and I overlooked it).

    Background: I have taught Secondary English at a title 1 school for 10 consecutive years (from 2006-2016). I switch schools for the 2016-2017 school year (still title 1), and I am currently finishing up this school year. After 5 years at my precious school, I applied for loan forgiveness and received $5000 towards my substantial student loan debt (both from undergrad and grad). Since I am an English teacher without Special Ed certification, I assumed I was only entitled for $5000 in loan forgiveness for my first 5 consecutive years. However, am I eligible to apply for an additional $5000 for my teaching years 6-10? I believe I read one of your responses that eligible teachers were qualified for up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness for the life of the loan? Does this only apply to Math, Science, and Sped teachers? I know qualified Math, Science, and Sped teachers are eligible for $17,500 in loan forgiveness after 5 consecutive years, but I thought English teachers, for example, could only apply for $5000 after 5 consecutive years? Please advise/clarify, as I would be most appreciative for you help. Thank you!

    • Good question Mary, and thanks for reading the others before firing it off. I wish I could give you a straight answer, but to be honest, I’m not sure. I recommend that you contact the Student Loan Ombudsman Group, which is a free service of pro-bono lawyers that answer complicated student loan and student loan debt related questions. You can contact them here.

  7. My husband is a HQT in mathematics and had a loan forgiven for $8000. He is currently pursuing another masters. Can he apply again when he is finished for an additional $9500 to cap out Teacher Loan Forgiveness or is he out of luck?

    • Hi T,

      I’m not sure. I’ve received this comment several times now and I’m certain that you can’t use the benefit twice for the same loan, but I don’t know if you could receive it twice for two separate loans. I do not think it would work, because of the way the rules are stated: “Up to… in forgiveness”.

  8. First off thank you for this blog. I have searched everywhere for answers. I am confused about what to apply for since I have had multiple teaching areas which i am highly qualified for and have taught at multiple schools here is my situation.

    I taught in special education from 2006 -2010
    >>> I called and got us on the low income list in 2009-2010 >>>> (since this date all of my teaching has been in title 1 schools)
    2010 – 2011 taught pe
    2011- 2012 – rti specialist for general education and sped

    Moved to Texas and changed schools (still title 1)
    2012 -2013 – taught special education
    2013-2015 – taught business classes

    Moved back to Hawaii back to first school
    2015-2016 – pe
    2016-2017 – pe/adaptive pe

    So my question is do I apply for the 17500 if I haven’t been teaching special education for 5 years or just the 5,000.

    It only allows you to check one box on each form. I am assuming that I will need to get both schools to sign as sped. Any thoughts.


    • Hi Jess,

      I’ve got two recommendations for you…

      1. Contact the Federal Student Loan Ombudsman Group. This is a FREE service that helps people figure out complicated legal issues related to Federal student loans. I don’t want to comment on your particular history since it’s quite complicated, and I wouldn’t want to steer you the wrong direction. Call the Ombudsman Group and they’ll help you unravel what you actually qualify for. You can reach them here.

      2. If the Ombudsman can’t help (they should be able to…), or if you want to pay someone to figure things out for you, and deal with all the paperwork, then call the Federal Student Loan Relief Helpline, which is a PAID, FOR-PROFIT service that you will have to pay to get the work done, but who will handle everything on your behalf. You can reach them by calling 1-888-906-3065.

  9. Hi Tim,

    Thank you for your post and site – it has been very helpful! On a related topic, my wife has been approved and granted the $5k in federal teacher student loan forgiveness. In Illinois, you’re also eligible for a matching forgiveness once the federal funds are granted, however, this is a first come first serve program. Are you aware if you can reapply for state teacher student loan forgiveness in subsequent years if not accepted with your initial application?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    • Hi Mike,

      If your application is turned down because the funds have already run dry, then yes, you will be able to apply for the benefits again the following year. Thanks for the kind words!

  10. While I used to be a highly qualified English teacher at a qualifying second day school…for the last 6 years I have been working on a teachers contract as an instructional coach…which seems to disqualify me. Is there anything a person in my position can do? Teacher contract…though not a teacher…in a qualifying school.

    • Hi Brett,

      You may still qualify… have you spoken to your loan servicer about it? Call whoever handles your payments and tell them what’s going on. You may be pleasantly surprised.

      Also – consider contacting the Student Loan Ombudsman Group to have them look into it for you. This is a free service provided by the Federal Government (NOT a lead gen company or consolidation company), and they can advocate on your behalf for legal-related student loan problems.

  11. I worked at a school for 7 years as a Special Ed teacher, the first 3 years the school didn’t qualify under the program and the final 4 it did. I was then moved to a school that doesn’t qualify. The loan servicer has denied the request saying the 5 years wasn’t met because the I only worked 4 years at the school total (3 after the first qualifying year). Claiming my prior time at the school doesn’t count, which is funny since If the school only qualified the first year and then didn’t the remaining 4 years, I would qualify.
    Have you come across this before?

    • I have not, but I think you need to press them on it because it sounds like a ridiculous excuse. Contact the Student Loan Ombudsman Group to ask for their assistance. This is a free, Government-provided legal advisory service who may be able to advocate on your behalf. They’re attorneys, and when they call your loan servicer (if you can get them to), the servicer will not be able to stonewall them.

  12. Hello Tim,
    I am glad that I found your blog and am hoping that you can help me figure out whether or not I will be eligible for student loan forgiveness. Reading some of the comments on this website has made me nervous!

    I am a Special Education teacher in my 4th year of teaching at a Title 1 school in NYC. I participated in the NYC Teaching Fellows program, so I suppose that I was under a “provisional” license for my first two years while I was working on my Masters degree. I believe that I should be eligible for the loan forgiveness, except for two things.

    One, I was offered (and accepted) a Segal Americorps Education award of $5,500 after my first year of teaching, and I applied that towards my student loan repayment. I did not realize until later that there is something on the requirement list for Teacher Loan Forgiveness about not being able to use a year where you received Americorps assistance towards Teacher Loan Forgiveness.

    Two, I recently consolidated my loans (I wish I hadn’t now, but they were pushy and I hadn’t done enough research). Does this disqualify me from this program?

    I am ready to leave teaching for a variety of reasons, but am willing to stay for another year or so if it means receiving $17,500 in loan forgiveness. However, if I am disqualified already, I would like to know so I can move onto something else and not wait around to be disappointed! I hope that you can help me answer these questions. Thank you for your time.

    • Hi Kristin,

      Unfortunately, I think you’re going to be disqualified from the program because you’ve consolidated your loans. If you consolidated them with private debt, then you’ll absolutely have lost your eligibility. I would recommend that you speak with your loan servicer to ask them whether or not you’re still eligible.

  13. Scott Marsden says:

    I am currently an associate principal at a qualifying elementary school. Would I be eligible to receive loan forgiveness? If not through this program, do you know of any other programs I could try?

    Thanks so much!

    • Hi Scott,

      If I were you, I’d contact whoever services your loan and ask them. They are the only people who can tell you with any certainty what you do or do not qualify for. I can steer you in a direction, but I have no real authority.

  14. I was attempting to apply for the loan forgiveness, I have been working for 5 years at an eligible school. The problem is that in my area special education services are contracted through private agencies. I am therefore technically an employee of the agency, not the school. While I have been at the same school for all 5 years, the agencies have switched in the middle. Therefore, each agency does not want to sign for me because I have not been their employee for 5 years. The school administration is also reluctant to sign because they inferred from the language of the application that the applicant must be an employee of the school. Is this accurate, or can the school certify my employment regardless of my being employed by an outside company?

    • Hi Jerry,

      You may need to consult with an attorney to find a solution here. I think it’s going to require some threatening legal letters to get the ball rolling in your case…

      What I’d do first is get in touch with the Student Loan Ombudsman Group and see if they think you’ve got a shot at having this approved. They are a free organization that helps with legal questions about student loan debt, and I think they could advocate on your behalf, or at least let you know whether or not you should hire an attorney to fight this indecisiveness.

  15. Douglas Whitehouse says:

    Hi Tim,

    I taught Math at the secondary level for 3.5 years at schools that are on the list as qualifying institutions for the teacher forgiveness program and then began teaching at the Department of Defense Education agency also at the secondary level for the next 2 years. Would I qualify for the teacher forgiveness program?


    • Hi Doug,

      It certainly sounds like it! I would contact whoever services your loan and ask them for the required paperwork to submit your application. It’s definitely worth attempting, because the benefits are excellent.

  16. Hi,
    Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I have currently taught for 4 school years at the same title one elementary. I will be teaching at same title one school this coming school year, I’m just trying to put my ducks in a row to be ready to apply next year.

    I know I will be eligible, however I taught gen Ed for the first 3 years and will have taught sped the last 2 years of the five. However I have been certified as a sped teacher since 2010. Would I be able to recieve the $17,500 even though I didn’t teach sped for the whole 5 years, or only the $5,000 despite teaching sped for 2 years?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Angela,

      I would love to give you a firm “yes” or “no” answer, but unfortunately, my thoughts are more like “maybe”. Talk to whoever handles HR at your school and ask them what you’ll qualify for. If they can’t give you an answer, then contact your loan servicer and ask them. At the end of the day, everything has to be approved by whoever services your loan, so they basically have final say. I THINK you’ll be able to qualify for the total forgiveness benefit, but I’m not entirely certain.

  17. Chris Willey says:


    My first 2 years teaching I was at a title 1 school. However, I was moved to another school in the district that is not considered title 1 and have been teaching here for 3 years. I read that if your school is title 1 and then stops being title 1 you can still qualify. Is this correct?

    Also, my current school receives title 1 funding for special education. Is that good enough? The school is not listed on the boe database, but I have found other sites that list it as receiving title 1 money. Confusing huh?

    I know I’m suppose to talk to a doe loan officer, but what are your thoughts?

    Thank you so much for your help. I love that this page exists!

    • Hi Chris,

      Please contact your school’s HR Department and ask them the same question you’ve asked here. If they don’t know the answer, then you’re going to need to speak with whoever services your loan to find out what your options are. The sad thing about all these benefits programs is that the true power lies in the hands of whoever owns your debt, and that you’ll need to convince them (at the end of the day), that your service qualifies for the benefit.

      On the bright side, they are heavily regulated now, and do not get away with offering misleading information, or turning people down for benefits once they’ve satisfied the eligibility conditions. The whole industry is way cleaner than it was in the past, and it’s making things much easier for people to receive the benefits that they have EARNED.

      If you start having problems with the loan servicer, get in touch with the Student Loan Ombudsman Group, who will be able to help you sort out all the legal issues and who will actively lobby on your behalf… all FOR FREE!

      Good luck! And thanks so much for the kind words. I really appreciate the positive input.

  18. Hi and thanks for the great resource.
    I earned my bachelor’s degree in Education. I taught for five consecutive years at a BIA school in Special Education. My loan was completely forgiven. I borrowed only 4,000 of the 17,500. Is this a one time offer? Or do I have 13,500 left on the account to borrow for future educational endeavors? Do i qualify for a new 17,500 and begin this process all over for a masters degree?

    Some other related questions include these:
    Can i earn the masters degree of my choosing or does it have to be related to my Special Education teaching?

    If i work as a IEP Specialist, a non-teching position, can I qualify for complete loan forgiveness if serving at a low-income school being that it is serving students with disabilities?

    Thank you 🙂

    • Hi Daniel,

      I think you would be able to qualify for additional forgiveness benefits on a completely separate loan (like the Masters Degree that you mentioned).

      I believe you could get a degree in any subject, as long as your job keeps you eligible to receive the benefits.

      You will need to speak with your HR department or your loan servicer about the final question, and I would run the other two questions by them as well. At the end of the day, you only get forgiveness if the loan servicer agrees to it, so don’t make any decisions without talking to them first.

      Good luck!

  19. Hi I previously applied and received the $17,500 max award while teaching as an exceptional Ed teacher. I am now a first grade teacher and have been for 3 years. When I get to my 5th year teaching 1st grade, can I reapply for the 5,000 loan?

    • Hi Annie,

      You won’t be able to use the program to receive loan forgiveness for the same loan twice. The rules clearly state that you can qualify for “up to $17,500”, meaning… not $17,500 x 2. You may be able to get the award twice if you had two separate loans to pay off, but I would check with an attorney before considering that a viable option.

  20. Christina Behl says:

    I’ve been a bit confused on the wording. I just completed my masters and have about $20,000 in student loans. I am currently completing my 4th year of teaching math (3 in this school, 1 in previous school-both low income title 1 and as a highly qualified mathematics teacher). Do I have just one more year of teaching before I can apply for loan forgiveness or do I need to do 5 more years like the MO TEACH Grant requires because it doesn’t include years before the program is complete?

    • Hi Christina,

      The clock 5 year clock starts ticking after your last loan is disbursed, and when you begin teaching in a qualified role (as a “highly qualified teacher”). So… when did you take out your loans? That’s when your teaching experience begins. Any time spent teaching BEFORE the final disbursement of the loan will not count toward your 5 required years.

  21. Paul Fiaccone says:

    Do you know if this applies to Grad loans? For example, I have been teaching for 10 years and CT requires teachers get their masters. I got mine and became a certified BCBA an started teaching Special Ed after I received my Masters. My school is on the list. If I complete 5 years as a special ed teacher, can I get my grad loan forgiven?

  22. Nicole Beam says:


    I received $5000.00 toward loan repayment a few years ago. However, I thought there was some information that I read somewhere that stated after 10 years, I could apply for total forgiveness or cancellation. I have not been able to find that information recently. Do you have any information about that?

  23. Chanta Smothers says:

    Are school counselors eligible for this program? I work in a K-8 school setting.

    • Did you read the eligibility guidelines in the post? It’s all stated very clearly there. You need to go through each component of the process and determine whether or not you satisfy the requirements. I can’t figure it out for you.

  24. Adam Cordell says:

    Is there any way to expedite student loan forgiveness, or even a full cancellation of loans for cancer survivors? I’m a former NCAA Division 2 athlete. I failed a NCAA administered drug test to find out I had a rare form of testicular cancer, primarily forming in the thoracic cavity. Between student loan repayments and past medical bills, finances are a complete headache.
    After surviving, I played in 15 games my junior and senior years, completing my degree in education. I now teach and coach.
    Is there any way to gain a way of forgiveness or cancellation of loans for cancer survivors? If you, or anyone else, can help or direct me to some resources, that would be most helpful.

    • Hi Adam,

      Not that I am aware of, but there may be scholarships or grant opportunities. Google would be your best avenue in looking for those. The only way to get any form of immediate student loan forgiveness is to qualify under the guidelines of the Total and Permanent Disability Discharge program.

  25. Chris Bergstrand says:

    How can I tell if my loans qualify? I think some of my loans are PLUS but on my loan reports they are only listed as “DLSTFD and DLUNST

  26. I received $5000 forgiveness for being at a Title 1 school over 5 years ago. I am still at that school, teaching same subject. Still highly qualified. Can I apply again.

    • Did you qualify for Stafford Loan Forgiveness or Perkins Loan Forgiveness? The $5,000 number is throwing me off, because Stafford Loan Forgiveness offers up to $17,500 in forgiveness benefits lifetime. If you only received $5,000, and under the Stafford program, then you may be eligible for more. Perhaps your debt wasn’t that big to begin with? I’m not sure what’s going on, but the numbers aren’t adding up right to me.

  27. eileen murphy says:

    Hi Tim
    I am trying to sort out the requirements for either of the teacher loan forgiveness programs, the Stafford program and the Perkins loan programs. Qualifying for the specific school with respect to low income, federal designation is not the issue, the 5 consecutive year requirement is clear, but the highly qualified designation as well as the areas of expertise being limited to Math and Science in addition to Special education is where my confusion is rooted in. My daughter is an ESL teacher with a Masters degree, and I am questioning if there is in fact limitations on areas of concentration that qualify her for either program? thanks for your help

    • Hi Eileen,

      You should have your daughter speak with the HR people at her school to find out whether or not she qualifies. They should be able to comment on it. If they can’t, contact whoever services her loan and ask them for details.

  28. devri elliott says:

    I just found your site, and I love it! Thank you for providing this resource.

    Would I be able to submit more than one application for forgiveness at a time?

    For example, send one application for my undergraduate loan, and send another application for my graduate loan. Thanks for your time!

  29. Robin Duncan says:

    I have a few questions hopefully you can answer.

    My stafford loan was taken over by Mohela a few years ago, would I still qualify for the Stafford Loan Forgiveness?

    I’m unsure if I’m considered a highly qualified teacher. I teach Kindergarten in a title 1 low income school. Is the test for highly qualified teachers something else that needs to be taken? Or does an endorsement in reading and social studies for K-8 qualify me as a highly qualified teacher?

    I’m trying to decide if it is worth it to teach in a low income school for 2 more years, I’ve already but in 3, but I’m worried I won’t qualify for any programs that will help me with my loan forgiveness.

    • Hi Robin,

      Did you read the section about what it means to be a Highly Qualified Teacher? It’s all spelled out in this article.

      If you’re still unclear after you’ve reviewed the full content of the article, then consider calling the Student Loan Debt Relief Helpline to provide them with your details and find out which benefits you may qualify for. You can reach them at 1-888-694-8235.

  30. My husband has taught math for five years in a high school that has been listed in the low income school list in each of those five years. However, his school district refuses to certify his student loan forgiveness application because his school is not a “Title I School”. is it possible for a school to be listed in the low income directory and not technically be a Title I school? If so, why does the certification section ask the school district to certify five years of teaching at a Title I school?

    • Hi Carrie,

      Yes, this is possible. According to, the definition of a Title 1 school is:

      Any school that is eligible for and accepts funds under any programs authorized by Title I of NCLB is a “Title I school” for purposes of the parental choice provisions of the law. Schools may receive grants to support targeted services for specific children or school-wide programs that include all children in the school. Parents can determine if their child’s school is a “Title I school” by searching the Public Schools database supplied by the National Center for Education Statistics.

      I would recommend that you or your husband get in touch with someone from the Department of Education, and find out if the school SHOULD BE classified as a Title 1.

  31. Tim,

    I have a little different of a situation here. My wife has been teaching special Ed for 10 years at the same school, she has one masters and just started her second. We werent planning on taking out a loan but after realizing she may qualify for the teacher loan forgiveness program, we are reconsidering. My question is if she would qualify. She teaches special ed, classroom setting, at a school that was on the low income list for 2014-2015. Once shes done with this program in 2+ years, would she be eligible for up to $17,500 in forgiveness? Is the issue that she has taught for more than 5 years already? I can’t get the answers I am looking for anywhere.

    • Hi Andrew,

      I would consult with whoever is servicing your existing loans and ask them whether or not she’s going to qualify. I’d also try contacting one of the private companies that handles Federal Student Loans, like the Student Loan Relief Helpline (who you can reach at 1-888-694-8235 and asking them whether or not this would work in advance.

  32. I’m pretty sure I applied for this 6 years ago and was given $5000 in forgiveness. If so, if I worked another 5 years in a different qualifying situation can I apply for another $5000? The form asks if you have applied before. I can’t find where I had $5000 applied to my loan before OR anything that says if I can apply again.

    • Hi Kelly,

      Contact whoever services your loan and request them for paperwork showing that you received an initial $5,000 forgiveness benefit. If they can’t produce it, and have no record of the award having been applied to your account, then you should be good to go.

      You are not supposed to be able to use Stafford Loan Forgiveness twice for the same debt (same loan), so if you’ve already applied it once, you’ll be out of luck.

      But if there’s no record of you having received the benefit before, you’re fine, and if this is an entirely different loan (say a Master’s Loan compared to a Bachelor’s Loan), then I think you’ll be fine there too.

  33. Hi Tim,
    My wife had an undergraduate loan that was rolled into her 2006 loan. We applied for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program and were denied because of the loan rollover. Is there a way to appeal and only ask for loan forgiveness on her master’s degree loan which allowed her to teach.

    • Hi Sean,

      Unfortunately, I don’t think you’ll be able to work this out – assuming that by “rolled into” you mean consolidated? Consolidation risks sacrificing many of the benefits offered by specific Federal student loan programs (Stafford Forgiveness, Perkins Forgiveness, etc.).

      If you want to press the issue, however, and it’s probably worth doing just that, then contact the Federal Student Loan Ombudsman Group and request that they review her file to let you know how best to proceed. You can reach them here.

  34. I have a question about if I will qualify. I have a Certified k-12 teachers with a Masters plus continuing hours and taught elementary PE in a qualified low income district for 4 years before taking a new job as a secondary teacher. This is my 2nd year teaching at school but my 6th year teaching PE at a qualified low income school. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Omar,

      I’ve got three ideas for you:

      1. Contact your school’s HR Department and ask them to sort out the regulations for you. They should be able to help.

      2. Contact whoever services your loan and ask them what you qualify for. They’re supposed to tell you the truth (but don’t trust what they say if they turn you down – definitely seek out a 2nd opinion).

      3. Call the Student Loan Relief Helpline, a for-profit organization that helps people figure out how to lower their monthly payments and qualify for Federal Student Loan Forgiveness benefits. You can reach them at: 1-888-694-8235

  35. Is this form the only thing that needs to be turned in? I don’t need copies of contracts or anything of the like? I just want to make sure before I try to send this to the loan distributor.



    • Hi Samantha,

      Yes, you’ve got it. All they’re really looking for is the statement from someone up your chain of command certifying that you satisfy the conditions of the employment requirements. That’s the most important part, because it verifies that you satisfy the conditions of the Stafford loan forgiveness program.

      Your loan servicer will verify everything too. They don’t like giving forgiveness benefits out, so sometimes they do try to put up a fight and prevent people from getting what they deserve, but in the end they have no choice as long as you follow the protocol.

      • Awesome! Well, I am in my sixth year and I am a special education teacher and have taught the years consecutively in a Title I school listed on that list they have provided, so I don’t see any reason they wouldn’t unless they bring up the provisional license issue like I saw someone else post.

        So, hoping for the best!

        Do I have to wait until I am fully out of my masters program before I can submit? Right now my payments are not even due because I am in my last course of school…

  36. I was wondering if the loan forgiveness also applies to sixth year degrees in education. I just received my Master’s in Elementary Education through an accelerated teacher certification program. The program consisted of an internship, too. For this, I did not have to take out a loan because my tuition was paid for by the school that I interned at. I was already hired to teach at a Title 1 school. I definitely plan on going back to school for my sixth year in education. I know that a sixth year is not required of teachers, but a Master’s is (at least in Connecticut, where I will teach). So, does the loan forgiveness have a “cap” on the level of degree? In other words, if I take out a loan for a sixth year degree, will I qualify for the loan forgiveness?

    • Hi Todd,

      Forgiveness can be applied to an Undergraduate or a Graduate degree, so I think you will be ok. To make sure, check with your loan servicer in advance. At the end of the day, they are the ones you will have to convince that you’re playing by the rules.

  37. Lori Evans says:

    Hello…I hope you can help me. My husband is a Special Ed teacher and starting teaching in 1998. He has taught in several low imcome schoold and Special Ed has always been an in need area We applied for the loan forgiveness program and was declined based on dates of his loans. The only think I can think of he has some undergrad loans prior to 1998 then his Special Ed Masters is the majority or his debt that was taken out in 1999-2001. Well we consolidated his loans years ago so they are all lumped together. Is there a way to separate the loans or apply based on the loans after 1998? They are not helpful when we called asking questiond. Thank you.

    • Hi Lori,

      Unfortunately, the Federal loan consolidation process is a one-way street, and there is no way to undo lumping those loans together. I am almost certain that this is why your husband’s request was denied, and I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you are unlikely to be able to take advantage of this program.

      However, when President Obama updates the Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan to allow everyone (regardless of when they took out their loans) to enroll in it, your husband should be able to take advantage of that. This change is set to come some time soon (supposedly by later this year), so be on the lookout for that opportunity.

  38. Helllo,

    First, let me preface this by saying I meet all the requirements as a special education teacher for the $17,500 loan forgiveness (5 years experience, title I school, etc). I have loans with two servicers: one for about $12,600 and about $5,100 with the other servicer, putting my total balance owed over the $17,500 which will be forgiven. I sent two separate applications for loan forgiveness, one to each servicer, and both servicers notified me the applications have been sent to the Department of Education (supposedly it takes a few months for a final decision from the DoE). I applied and was granted forebarance with both servicers.

    My question is: Should I continue to make payments to account for the interest that is still accruing on both loans while I wait for a final decision on loan forgiveness? It seems like the obvious answer here is “yes”, but I don’t want to do anything to screw up the final decision process. What if I made payments and the total loan balance was under $17,500 when the DoE makes the final approval?

    Basically, I want to make sure I’m still approved for the maximum amount of loan forgiveness and owe as little remaining on the balance with interest as possible. Any help/guidance would be appreciated!

    • Hi Tyler,

      Yes! Make sure that you do keep making interest payments until you are informed that you can stop paying them. If you quit making them, you’d end up owing more money down the line, EVEN IF your application is approved.

      Never, never stop paying your debt until you’ve received official confirmation that your application is approved and the funds have been released/spent on your behalf. Doing so could land you in financial hot water!

  39. Jessica Garrett says:

    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for creating this site! It’s full of so much useful information. I recently graduated and have planned to satisfy this loan forgiveness program within the next 7 years. I’m starting at a middle school, that does not qualify, but will be attempting to move to a high school that DOES qualify after 2 years. Once at that school, I will teach for 5 years as a highly qualified mathematics teacher. I understand that fulfills the requirements to have up to $17,500 of my loans forgiven, but I ALSO have a TEACH Grant that will be satisfied by 4 of those 5 years at the high school. So my question is, will I be able to take care of both the TEACH Grant and have my loans forgiven?

    • Hi Jessica,

      Yes! Working at a qualifying school for 5 years as a highly qualified math teacher will get you the $17,500 credit.

      To your question about using the same service obligation for both a TEACH Grant AND Teacher Loan Forgiveness (Stafford Loan Forgiveness) – I am not 100% sure on whether or not you’ll be able to use the same time as a form of “double dipping” and satisfying both conditions.

      I THINK the answer is yes, and here’s why:

      Although you agree to a service obligation for each TEACH-Grant-eligible program, your teaching service may apply to more than one service obligation. For instance, if you received a TEACH Grant for your undergraduate program and then for your graduate program, you would have two service obligations, but your four years of teaching would fulfill both service obligations at once.

      If the TEACH Grant Program allows you to satisfy TWO separate TEACH Grants with the same service obligation, then my thinking is that you could use the same service obligation for a TEACH Grant AND your Stafford Loan Forgiveness at the same time.

      I’m not 100% certain on this though. If I were you, I would contact whoever is servicing your loan and ask them. They’re going to be the people you have to deal with when it comes time to applying for Forgiveness anyway, so it’s really up to them!

      When you find out – please do come back and update me. I want to be able to answer this question accurately for anyone else who has the same thought.

      Thank you, and good luck!

  40. Ryan Shoemaker says:

    I am a highly-qualified secondary science teacher and I just finished my 5th consecutive year at a title one school (2010-2015). My undergrad is paid off but I started my masters this summer for which I am taking out unsubsidized loans. I feel I am getting hung up on the following requirement and and need clarification, “The loan(s) for which you are seeking forgiveness must have been made before the end of your five academic years of qualifying teaching service.” Am I not eligible since I have already taught at a title one school for 5 years or now that I have taken out loans I have to teach five more consecutive years at a title one school to be eligible. I have made several phone calls and most say that the most important things are that you have taught at a title one school for five years and that your highly qualified but could not give a good answer on the above requirement.

    Thank you for your help!

    • Hi Ryan,

      The way this would apply to your situation is that you’d need to restart a 5 year service commitment AFTER the date that your new loan was issued. You can’t use retroactive time spent in teaching to pay for a loan that you’re taking out in the future.

      You’ll still be able to qualify for the program, you’ll just need to teach for another five years AFTER borrowing the money in order to get approved for the benefit.

      Make sense? Sorry that they’re structured things this way – I wish you were able to use your previous 5 years of teaching to qualify, but unfortunately that’s not how the system works.

  41. I taught 1st & 2nd grades from 2007-2012 at a Title I elementary school. At the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year I was surplused to a non-Title I school, after the 10 day count. I am sent my loan forgiveness application to the district HR so they could sign the administrator portion. Today I received an email from them saying they wanted me to submit an application for the non-Title I school I worked at, during my 6th year. Is there some reason they need this to sign my paperwork??


    • Hi Elspeth,

      I’m not sure why they would need info about the non-Title I school, but I would provide that to them anyway. I wouldn’t think that a school you worked at during year 6 should matter at all, but it’s hard to say. Hopefully they’re not confused about how this program works…

      Let me know what you find out when you hear back from them. I’m curious to find out where this goes. Good luck!

  42. Hi,
    I read under the highly qualified section that all special education teachers whether they meet the highly qualified standards mentioned qualify for loan forgiveness. Does this mean that special education teachers don’t need a professional certificate? I ask because I have recently applied for the program. I have taught special education for 6 years but the first year I was on a provisional liscense. The following 5 I had a professional liscense but because the department of education was slow to issue my certificate it wasn’t issued until October. I’m scared that my 5 consecutive years will be cut short 2 months because the state didn’t issue my certificate in a timely manner.

    • Hi Rebecca,

      According to my understanding of the rules, you will be fine. ALL special education teachers (with or without the certificate) should be eligible for the benefits.

      I think you’re going to be fine =)

  43. I am currently an ESL facilitator at a Title I school and recently completed my 6th consecutive year. My application was denied because in my position, I work with both students and teacher during business hours therefore am not considered a full-time teacher for the purpose of loan forgiveness.
    Is there anything I can do? My school district considers my position a teaching position and I have read nothing that states that working with both teachers and students makes you ineligible.

    • Hi Kelly,

      Honestly, that doesn’t sound right to me. My advice to you is to reach out to the Student Loan Ombudsman Group and request that they review the circumstances to determine how you should proceed here. You can reach them here.

      (BTW, they are a free service, so don’t worry about having to pay money for the advice. Also, they are Government-sponsored, so you can trust their opinions.)

  44. I received $17,500 in loan forgiveness a couple of years ago. Can I apply a second time?

    • Hi Eric,

      I don’t believe it’s possible to qualify for the Stafford Forgiveness benefit twice, because I’m pretty sure that the rules say the $17,500 is a lifetime limit. You could try… but I don’t think it would work.

  45. Kelsey- let me know what you find out! I am in a similar situation and Student Resource USA told me to apply for the $17,500. I will check back to see what you hear! I will do the same as well for you!

  46. I saw one of the threads mention a similar situation I am in right now. My application was denied by Nelnet, my loan servicer. I taught from 2008- 2013 and then went back to grad school to get my Masters. They said I was denied because my five completed years were not “with a professional license”. I spoke to a customer service representative also to explain I was teaching secondary mathematics throughout those 5 years and employed full time. They said since I held a probationary certificate the first 2 years I was not “fully certified” and the academic years 2008-2010 do not count. I have read the fine print as well on the loan forgiveness application and I don’t see where it mentions that the five years of teaching need to be with a professional license. I went through the alternative certification program. Does my probationary certificate eliminate my firs 2 years and do I not qualify for the teacher loan forgiveness? Is there anything I can do to prove I was “highly qualified”?

    • Hi Anna,

      I do believe you need a professional license for each year of teaching in order to qualify for the teacher loan forgiveness program, but you should take this issue up with the Student Loan Ombudsman Group to get a 100% clear answer on how to proceed.

      They are a group of attorneys who offer free advice for handling complicated student loan-related legal matters, and I think they could give you a clear answer on this situation.

      You can reach them by visiting this page.

      • Hi Tim,
        I just wanted to give a update, my loans will be forgiven!
        I’d also like to share the process I went through.

        1.) I did go through the Ombusdsman group but unfortunately they weren’t able to help. 🙁

        2.) I was able to get a contact from the Texas Education Agency and they explained how a probationary certificate is treated in regards to federal regulation.
        The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) approved Texas’ revised highly qualified plan, an action that not only extended the deadline to meet highly qualified requirements to the end of the 2006-07 school year, but gave secondary experienced teachers who have been determined to be “highly qualified”.
        In the NCLB Highly Qualified Document a degreed individual who holds a probationary certificate, and is participating in an acceptable alternate route to certification program, including Special Education programs, may be considered “fully certified” under the “highly qualified” requirements. This coincides with the NCLB § 200.56 guideline.

        It took a long time to prove and numerous rejections but I was finally able to get the correct contact.

        Thanks again, your page gave great insight. I was about to give up but it is always good to dig for more information.

  47. Jill Moses says:

    I had applied 2 years ago. I was denied 4 different times for 4 different reasons. Each time I called the person agreed that I had all the requirements. I am about to put in my application AGAIN since now I will have been 5 years at 1 Title 1 school, teaching elementary children with autism. Has anyone actually ever received this money as I am so frustrated! It has been over a year of fighting with them I’m starting to thing its a scam.

    • Hi Jill,

      Yes, people definitely do receive Stafford Loan Forgiveness Benefits. What was the reason you’ve been getting denied? If you’re not getting anywhere, but are sure that you qualify for the program, then please contact the Student Loan Ombudsman Group.

      This is a group of attorneys who offer legal assistance to people struggling with student loan-related problems. If your rights are being denied by your lender, you may need to them to pursue legal action on your behalf.

      You’ll find the Student Loan Ombudsman Group here.

  48. Hello,
    I am about to apply for loan forgiveness as I am finishing up my 5th year teaching in a title 1 middle school. My question is about what I am eligible to apply for. I currently teach one math class and five language arts classes during the school day, one of which is a co-taught class with students with IEPs. Many of my colleagues believe I could qualify for the $17,500. I am certified math, but I teach more language arts than math classes. What do you think I am eligible for? I know of some teachers who are not certified special education teachers but who teach students with IEPs that have been given the $17,500. I don’t know how that works. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Kelsey,

      I think you may be able to qualify for the full $17,500, too, but unfortunately, my opinion doesn’t really count.

      The only way to find out for sure will be to apply and see what you get approved for. I would go ahead and apply ASAP, then see how they respond.

    • Hi Kelsey,

      It is conceivable that you have special needs students on your roster and you , in partnership with your sped teacher, serve these students in a co-taught class. However, you aren’t certified to service special needs students by certification. In regards to your situation about teaching middle school – I believe the check box is “elementary school” or “high school” in which case you teach elementary school. If there is a content area that needs to be identified, then I would refer to what the school reports about what you teach as defensible evidence. For me, I looked at the ISBE certification webpage (illinois state board of education). Overall, your school district or administrator must certify your experience to get you the $$$. That’s the bottom line.

      I’ve had waited many hours on the phone for a representatives and am speaking from personal experience. I have been granted the $17.5K and looking to see if I can apply again as the wording does not exclude another 5 year term.

  49. Jonathan McCabe says:

    I am finishing my fifth year of teaching and would love to apply to this program. I work at the one school in my district however that is not title 1. Can I still apply if my district qualifies? The literature I have seen so far is confusing.

    • Hi Jonathan,

      I agree that it’s confusing, and especially the rules about this specific tenet of the program. From the way I interpret it, yes, you should still apply anyway because it’s possible you’ll be able to receive Stafford Loan Forgiveness Benefits due to the district qualifying for Title 1.

      Also, it’s possible to suggest that your school be added to the Title 1 list as well, which is something you might want to consider doing. Department of Education doesn’t always have a perfect list, and they literally invite you to make suggestions for incorporating new schools into their roster.

      You can do that by contacting the representative for your state from this list.

  50. Lindey Cross says:

    I received $17,500 in teacher loan forgiveness, which I applied to my master’s degree. I am wondering if I can apply again towards to my bachelor’s degree. Is there any rule about applying twice and receiving it twice?

    • Hi Lindey,

      I’ve never run into this question before, but I think the answer is “no”. Reason I say no is that the program says in all of it’s explanations that it allows you to be eligible for “up to” $17,500 in forgiveness.

      My reading of that rule would mean that once you’ve hit that cap, it’s no longer possible to get any more money from Teacher Loan Forgiveness. However, stranger things have happened, and perhaps you could double-dip.

      I suggest that you contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center to get a solid answer on this. You can reach them here:

      Please let me know what you find out when you get an answer from them! I would love to be able to update my page with more accurate information, as I am sure this question will come up again at some point in the future.

      I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you! Good luck!

  51. Sanera Hetep Ab says:


    I am a certified high school math teacher who qualified and received the $17,500 for loan repayment.
    There seems like an additional $5,000 is available; is this true? Are there state loan forgiveness programs separate from the $17,500? If so, is there an application available? Thank you

  52. Edward Curtis says:

    I’m currently a 27 year experienced teacher at a public high school that falls into the qualifications above. I’m retiring at the conclusion of this school year to pursue another profession as a funeral director can I qualify for this loan or do you have to be currently teaching in order to qualify?

    • Hi Edward,

      I don’t think you will qualify for this program, because it was intended to help people with loans originating after October 1st, 1998.

      See the first line of the eligibility requirements for details, but I think that will preclude you from being able to leverage the benefit.

      My advice would be to contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center for verification. You can reach them by phone here: (800) 4 FED AID [800-433-3243], or via email here:

  53. Mike C. says:

    I taught mathematics (highly qualified) my first year of teaching back in 2004-2005 at an eligible Title I school. Let’s refer to this as “School 1”.
    I then changed districts to a school that was NOT listed as an eligible Title I school and have been teaching science (highly qualified) there from 2005 to PRESENT. Let’s refer to this as “School 2”.

    I recently realized that School 2 was listed as an eligible Title I school for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years.

    So here are my questions:
    1. Does the 1 year I taught at School 1 in 2004-2005 count towards the five year requirement?
    2. Do any of the school years at School 2 count towards the 5 consecutive year requirement besides 2013-2014 and 2014-2015?
    3. When will I be able to apply for the teacher loan forgiveness?
    4. I know that School 2 has been receiving Title I funds before the 2013-2014 school year, yet it wasn’t listed in the directory in prior years. Is there any way to be granted credit for those years if it can be proved that this school received Title I funds?

    • Hi Mike,

      Good questions! Frankly, I’m not sure how to answer these, and you will need to contact someone at the Department of Education to get a solid answer, because they are the ones who get to interpret all the rules.

      Here’s my thinking:

      1. Possibly. The rules say that you must be employed full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years… they don’t say that the qualifying years of service must all occur consecutively.
      2. I don’t think so, but possibly. As far as I understand the rules, only years taught while the school was eligible as a Title 1 School, or AFTER the school lost it’s Title 1 status, will count.
      3. Once you’ve satisfied the requirement of completing five qualifying years of service. This depends on the answers to Question 1 and 2 though, obviously, and you’ll need to verify with someone from DOE.
      4. You’ll have to ask someone at DOE. I’m not sure, but it’s possible.

      Wish I could be of better use here, but we’ve entered very muddy waters and I don’t want to steer you the wrong direction. You can reach the Federal Student Aid Information Center by calling them here: (800) 4 FED AID [800-433-3243].

  54. I regret that I am very late in researching the loan forgiveness programs. I worked in low income schools for 3 years post graduation, left the education setting to work in a private mental health setting for several years, and returned to the schools about 2 years ago. I understand that the 3 previous, consecutive years spent working in the school setting are voided and am wondering if the forgiveness clock restarts upon returning to the schools? Did I miss the opportunity or can apply for forgiveness once I’ve spent 5 consecutive years back in the school setting?

    • Hi Tracy,

      You didn’t “blow it” – you can still qualify for Stafford Forgiveness even many years after you graduated, and after having left the profession and come back into it.

      As long as you satisfy the eligibility conditions of the program, once you’ve completed 5 consecutive years at a qualifying position, you’ll be able to receive forgiveness benefits.

      Hang in there!

  55. Rachel Sawyer says:

    I recently submitted a request for Teacher Forgiveness and WAS deemed eligible, but told I could not have my loans 100% forgiven because I did not owe enough money.

    At the end of my 5 years I will owe $7,000

    I am a highly qualified mathematics teacher in a Title 1 school, all of that information has been confirmed, but loan company is telling me I can only have $5,000 forgiven because I have to owe more than the forgiveness amount. Everything I am reading tells me the opposite, that I have to owe LESS than the forgiveness amount to qualify.

    Is that accurate? From what I am reading it says UP to $17,500, which would make me think $7,000 would be completely 100% forgiven.

    They are making me resubmit my application as a “regular secondary teacher” and not as a math teacher (which is what I am) so I can qualify for the $5,000. Just wanted to double check that this is correct as both people I talked to didn’t seem so sure. Thanks!

    • Hi Rachel,

      I think you’re right and that you should have the FULL amount forgiven. DO NOT resubmit as a “regular secondary teacher”. Instead, contact the Student Loan Ombudsman Group and verify this information with them.

      The Ombudsman Group works like a legal representative to ensure that your rights are protected, and can give you advice on how best to proceed. Their phone number is 1-877-557-2575.

      Please let me know what you find out! I think your lender has this completely backwards, and it would be great if we could verify that so that anyone else who faces the same situation knows what to do.

      Good luck!

  56. I am currently in my 4th year of teaching and trying to get my ducks in a row so I can pursue loan forgiveness. I think I have a firm grasp on all of the requirements except for the “highly qualified” part. Is highly qualified in reference to the evaluation done by my administrators? Meaning, if I am rated as “effective” and not highly qualified, then I will not qualify for any loan forgiveness. If you could shed any light on this that would be a huge help.


    • Hi Matt,

      Thanks for stopping by and thank you for your service!

      For the Highly Qualified part, check out the section of this post called “What is a Highly Qualified Teacher?” which details exactly what that means.

      It’s a bit complicated so I’m not going to write it all out again here, but it’s not that tough to satisfy those conditions. Take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

  57. My application was recently denied by Nelnet, my loan servicer. I am in my sixth year of teaching special education. They say that it was denied because my five completed years were not “with a professional license”. I spoke to a customer service rep to explain – in Ohio, all teachers start with a provisional license. I still was employed full time and had passed the Praxis. But it wasn’t until my second year that I was teaching under a “professional license”. Has anyone else come up against this problem? I have read the fine print on the loan forgiveness application and do not see the wording that says the five years of teaching need to be with a professional license.

    • Hi Katie,

      This sounds like they’re trying to take advantage of you. Try contacting someone from the Department of Education to ask them about this particular provision, and be sure you can provide them with all of the details about your situation.

      I don’t think Nelnet can disqualify you from the program because of this part about the “professional license”, as I’ve never run into that requirement in any of my research.

      Have you tried escalating your conversations with them? (The old ask for their manager, then ask for their manager again, etc., until you get to a real decision maker).

      Also – if you can’t get sufficient assistance from anyone at Nelnet, or the Department of Education, then speak to a lawyer before giving up.

      I think you’re getting taken for a ride here, and you should be able to qualify for forgiveness as long as you’ve met all of the other conditions of the Stafford program.

      • Thanks for the advice! I will reach out to the Dept of Ed for clarification on the provisions. I have a feeling Nelnet is in the wrong, as I also applied for forgiveness with Sallie Mae and that application WAS approved. If it’s a federal program, then all servicers should be using the same criteria.

      • Happy to share this update – when I called the Dept of Ed, they put me in touch with the federal student aid ombudsman group. I shared the details of my case with a worker there, who made follow up calls to the loan servicer (Nelnet). Today I found out that Nelnet will forgive the remainder of my loans. Hooray!

        The Ombudsman Group was great to work with. The caseworker checked in with me to keep me updated through the process. They say they are not an advocacy group and that their role is to make sure the laws dealing with student aid are applied correctly. I would encourage anyone who is having trouble with loan forgiveness to reach out to them.

        • Excellent news! Thank you so much for coming back and sharing your story with me Katie. This is exactly why I started this website in the first place. Congratulations!!!

  58. I meet all of the requirements for Teachers Loan Forgiveness, but was denied by my loan company because I have “more than $17,500 in student loans at the end of the 5 year period.”

    Is this allowed?

    • Hi Andy,

      I believe that they should still provide UP TO $17,500 in forgiveness, but I’m not sure how this will sort itself out.

      Call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-730-8913) and ask them what to do. Then, please come back here and let me know how it works out.

      I’ve never had anyone ask this question before, and I’ve never run into any literature on it, so I’d like to know how it works if you have more debt than the program specifies.

      Hopefully, they’ll be able to forgive $17,500, and you’ll only be responsible for the remaining debt.

      Good luck!

  59. I have worked full time at a title one elementary school since Nov. 2006. I took 6 months off as a personal leave to take care of my baby. Then went back part time for 6 months then been there full time ever since. Do I still qualify for this loan forgiveness ??? I can’t seem to get a direct answer and my principal will not sign off on the application until it’s certain that I’m approved. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you !!

    • Hi Alicia,

      Did you read this entire article?

      Look at the section that starts with “What Happens if I Miss an Academic Year?”, where you’ll find the rules for determining whether or not your teaching service can still count.

      Under a few certain circumstances, you can miss a year and still be able to use it as part of your “five complete and consecutive years” of teaching, but you’ll have to satisfy one of the conditions listed there.

      It’s too complicated to write it all out again in this comment, but take a look at those elements and you should be able to determine whether or not your time will count.

      My opinion is that you need to fight for this, and can probably get approval, but you may need the Principal’s help (getting him or her to certify in writing that they “considered you to have fulfilled your contract requirements for that academic year”).

      It also depends on when your 6 months of personal leave time took place (during the academic year, or partially during the Summer?), because as long as you completed at least half the academic year then that won’t be a problem.

      The part-time piece though… I’m not sure how that will come into play.

      Try contacting the Department of Education to get an answer from them, as they’re the final approval people and will need to rubber stamp this in order for it to go through.

      Good luck!

  60. I applied for Teacher Loan Forgiveness and was denied. Who do I contact to find out the reason why? Do I call my loan provider directly? HELP! I know that I qualify– just can’t seem to get to the bottom of this!

    • Hi Ashley,

      I’ve been getting a lot of the same feedback from other people – apparently many have recently been turned down for Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

      Don’t give up though – contact whoever services your loan to ask for details from them. If they can’t explain things to you, then try calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-730-8913).

      Good luck!

  61. heather edwards says:

    How do I apply for the teacher loan forgiveness?

  62. I graduated in 1996 with my BA and have been teaching ever since. Since my loans were prior to 1998, would I not qualify for the teacher forgiveness program?

    • Hi Shannon,

      Unfortunately, according to the information I have, Stafford Loan Forgiveness is only eligible to people with loans issued on or after October 1st, 1998, so yes, you would not qualify for the program.

      However, I would recommend that you contact whoever services your loan to find out if anything has been updated, or if there’s any way that you can qualify for some other form of loan forgiveness.

  63. I just found out since one of my loans was dispersed before oct 98 i was denied the teacher loan forgiveness. This does not make sense to me since all of my other loans were obtained after this date. My graduate loans were obtained in 2007. Why do I not qualify for the loans that were obtained after 98? I was really counting on this since I qualify for the 17500 forgiveness

    • Hi Beth,

      I’m sorry to hear about your situation. The way these laws are written sometimes makes very little sense, and this is an example of the sort of thing that can be crushing to those who need loan forgiveness the most.

      It may be possible to finish paying off the loan that was dispersed before October 98, then qualify for forgiveness on the rest of your loans, so be sure to speak with whoever services your loans to see if that would work.

      Good luck!

  64. Lisa Hoffmann says:

    I’ve downloaded the form previously, but just realized it says that it expires 11/30/2007 and the only other one I can find says it expires 5/30/2014. Is there a current application? The link in the information above is not active.

    • Hi Lisa,

      Unfortunately, I can’t find a current version of the form either. The only one that I’m able to find is the same form that expires 5/31/2014 (here).

      I’ll reach out to my contacts and see if anyone can direct me the right way to the current form, or explain why there isn’t an updated one hosted on the official Government website.

    • Hi Again Lisa,

      Here is the official response from StudentAid:

      You are concerned that the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application’s expiration date is May 31, 2014.

      Please note that until the revised version of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application has been approved, loan servicers may continue to accept the current version of the application with the May 31, 2014 expiration date.

      If you have additional questions, contact your loan servicer. If you are not sure who your loan servicer is, you can look it up on the National Student Loan Data System, NSLDS(R), website at To obtain contact information for the loan servicer, click on the number in the blue box next to the loan type.

      Sounds like the expired application form is still your best bet, but that it will depend on your loan servicer.

      Hopefully this helps!

  65. Brittany says:

    I applied for teacher loan forgiveness on the last day of the 2013-2014 school year so that I could meet the May 31, 2014 deadline. I have taught for five consecutive years in two different school districts both at middle schools; however, I just received word that I was denied because “In order to be eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness, you must teach at a low income school district for five consecutive years.

    Both school districts are low income. Was I required to teach in only one school district for the five years?
    I have taught for five consecutive years. Should I have waited to turn in my paperwork when the new school year started?

    I should be receiving answers from both Sallie Mae and Department of Education sometime this week concerning my denial. I ensured (which teaching) that all my ducks were in a row for the teacher loan forgiveness program. Now, I have a denial letter that I am not happy about. Have you heard of any success stories with this program?

    • Hi Brittany,

      I have definitely heard of this program working for teachers, but I am not sure about the answer to your question. I’m going to research this today and will let you know.

      (I poured through the details I’ve seen so far, and I honestly can’t tell if Stafford Loan Forgiveness requires teaching at the same school for five complete and consecutive years. None of the available verbiage signals either way, but I’ll do my best to find out and update this page accordingly.)

    • Hi Again Brittany,

      Looks like you shouldn’t have a problem based on bouncing between schools, districts, etc.

      Page 3 of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness application reads:

      “You may qualify for forgiveness based on qualifying teaching service for five consecutive, complete academic years at any combination of eligible elementary schools, secondary schools, or educational service agencies.”

      So – something else must have gone wrong with your application. I cannot tell you with any certainty what happened, but you’ll definitely want to figure that out and reapply.

      Stay strong and don’t give up. Sometimes little snags can hold stuff up in the process, but you’ll eventually get the loan forgiveness that you’ve earned, and which you deserve!

  66. Its extremely frustrated to find to proper information regarding teachers loan forgiveness on the basis of short teachers shortage.

    I applied for TLF and was denied because my school is not listed in the low income schools directory. My local Human Resources Rep. directly me to the teachers loan forgiveness on the basis of teachers’ shortage. So far, I can’t find such application.

    Frustrated teacher in the Virgin Islands

    • Hi Ester,

      Unfortunately this is a complicated program and qualifying for the benefit typically does require that your school is listed in the low-income schools directory.

      However, it is actually possible to get approval for the program even if your school isn’t listed in the directory by contacting your state representative to ask them to consider your school.

      To do that, please refer to the State Contact list published here.

      At the time of writing this comment, the official responsible for the Virgin Islands is Dr. Noreen Michael, who can be reached via email at

      Good luck Ester!

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