If you’re working as a teacher, you know the power that comes from making a difference in kids’ lives. But you might also know the anxiety that accompanies high student loan bills on a teacher’s salary.
Even though teacher salaries aren’t on par with other professional fields in the United States, education degrees can be pricey.
Fortunately, both the federal government and many state governments have created programs that provide financial support—often in the form of loan forgiveness—to educators.
Understanding the details of various student loan relief programs can seem daunting, so we’ve outlined the primary offerings for teachers looking for ways to manage their debt load.
Under this federal program, if you teach full-time for five consecutive academic years in a school or educational service agency that serves low-income students, you may be eligible for forgiveness of a portion of your Direct or Federal Stafford loans. Unfortunately, PLUS loans are not eligible.
Forgiveness is capped at $5,000 for most teachers, though special education, math, and science teachers may receive more (up to $17,500).
To benefit from the program, educators must be “highly qualified.” For many teachers, state certification or a teaching license satisfy the requirement, but teachers new to the profession may have to complete additional testing.
Don’t worry if you’ve consolidated your Direct and Federal Stafford loans through a Direct Consolidation Loan. You may still be eligible to have that portion of your consolidation loan forgiven.
You can apply for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program here. Close readers will see that this form expired in July 2017. The U.S. Department of Education has promised that the form will remain viable until a new form is created.
See also 5 Student Loan Forgiveness Scams to Look out for in 2018.
While the public service loan forgiveness program is not limited to teachers, educators benefit greatly from the program, which forgives all remaining student loans for eligible borrowers after 10 years of on-time payments under an income-driven repayment plan.
Unlike most of the other forgiveness options for teachers, to qualify for PSLF, you don’t have to teach a particular subject or work in a specific geographic area. Public educators may be eligible for PSLF simply by working for a government organization.
If you teach in a school that makes you eligible for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, you may receive the benefit from both.
To participate in the PSLF program, you must submit a certification form from your employer. The U.S. Department of Education recommends that you send in the form as early as possible when you begin making loan payments.
Like PSLF, the Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation program is not limited to teachers—it applies to many professions. But educators with outstanding Perkins loans may be eligible to have up to 100% of their loans forgiven.
To qualify, a teacher must provide education in a public or nonprofit school and:
If you qualify for Perkins Loan Cancellation, you could receive forgiveness for 15% of your loans your first and second years, 20% your third and fourth years, and 30% your fifth year.
To apply for loan cancellation, contact the school that provided the loan.
Many states also provide forgiveness or repayment assistance options to encourage new teachers to enter into particular shortage areas.
For instance, New York’s loan forgiveness program provides up to $24,000 forgiveness to educators working with special populations, such as students who need bilingual education, those who are hearing impaired or have speech or language disabilities, in specific high-need districts. A teacher must commit to six consecutive years teaching in New York to benefit from the program.
Other states—like Arkansas, Maine, and Iowa—also have programs. Check with your state Department of Education to see if you might be eligible for student loan forgiveness.
If you need help managing your student loans now, learn about ways you can lower your monthly payments.
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