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.
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.
If you need help managing your student loans now, learn about ways you can lower your monthly payments.
Works with 275+ not-for-profit community lenders for higher approval chances
LendKey operates student loan programs for over 275 not-for-profit and community lenders across the country. By partnering with these lenders, LendKey is able to give consumers direct access to the best rates available from the most borrower friendly institutions. As the servicer of all loans obtained through its platform, you can rest easy knowing your personal information will be safe and that the best customer service team will be ready to answer your questions from application until your final payment.
Offers unemployment protection and career/coaching/networking
SoFi, which stands for “Social Finance,” was created by a group of Stanford business students who found themselves with a mountain of debt after graduation. They set out to change the student loan industry and help borrowers like themselves to get lower interest rates. SoFi has some of the lowest interest rates and, unlike the other lenders we reviewed, it has no maximum amount you can finance. However, Nevada residents can’t currently refinance with SoFi. Minimum loan balances are higher in Arizona, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania due to state laws. Additional state restrictions may apply.
For every loan they fund, they contribute to the education of a child in need
CommonBond was founded in 2011 by three MBA graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who wanted to help their peers escape from high-interest student loan debt. Its original focus was on grad students, but it has since expanded to cover undergrads as well.
Of all the companies we reviewed, CommonBond has some of the best customer service. The company prides itself on being easy to reach by email, phone, or live chat. It offers networking events, expert panels, insider newsletters, and even has a program help borrowers who lose their jobs to find new ones. CommonBond also makes you feel good about choosing to refinance with them by donating money to an education nonprofit for each loan they write.
Get a personalized review of your refinancing options with CommonBond today.
Earnest empowers people with the financial captial they need to live better lives.
Using technology, data, and design to build affordable products, Earnest's lending products are built for a new generation seeking to reach life's milestones. The company understands every applicant's unique financial story to offer the lowest possible rates and radically flexible loan options for living life.
Click here to apply with Earnest and to see how much you can save.
Operates in all 50 states; 2nd largest student loan refinancing lender
Laurel Road is a national online lender with customers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Many of our non-bank competitors are not able to lend in all 50 states.Laurel Road has grown to be the second largest player in the student loan refinancing space in large part because of our reputation as the go-to low rate provider.
Special offers for medical resident and fellow refinance products
Splash Financial is a leader in student loan refinancing with new rates as low as 3.25% fixed APR which can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. No application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Splash Financial is in all 50 states and is intensely focused on customer service. Splash Financial is also one of the few companies that offers a great medical resident and fellow refinance product. You can check your rate with Splash in just minutes.
Click here to see more of Splash's offerings and to see how you can save money.