The Complete Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers

student loan forgiveness for teachers

Teaching is one of the most important professions, but it’s at risk of losing top talent due to low pay and long hours. However, student loan forgiveness for teachers could help reverse that trend.

Approximately 8 percent of teachers leave the field each year, according to the Learning Policy Institute. To compensate, districts would have to hire an additional 145,000 individuals to return schools to their pre-recession teacher-student ratios.

As of 2017, the average starting salary for a teacher was $38,727, according to PayScale. Education majors have lower salary potential compared to other majors.

Meanwhile, the average student loan debt for 2016 graduates regardless of major or profession was over $37,000. It’s clear that these numbers don’t favor a teacher’s ability to repay their student loans.

But there are teacher student loan forgiveness programs from the federal and state government can help.

It’s not easy to sift through all the details of student loan forgiveness for teachers, so we’ve broken it down for you. Here are the options available that will help you dig yourself out of debt.

Federal Teacher Cancellation for Perkins Loans

The Federal Perkins Loan program expired in September 2017. However, if you borrowed money through the program before its expiration date, you might still qualify for Federal Teacher Cancellation for Perkins Loans.

How much it’s worth: Up to $27,500.

Requirements: You must teach at least one year and meet one of the below requirements:

  • Teach at a low-income school (click here for a list)
  • Teach special education
  • Teach in mathematics, science, foreign languages, or bilingual education
  • Teach in a field that has a shortage of qualified teachers in your state

How long it takes: Minimum one full year of teaching. 100 percent Perkins Loan debt cancellation after five years.

The details: After just one year of teaching, you can have 15 percent of your outstanding Perkins Loans canceled. This continues in varying amounts until you have all Perkins Loan debt canceled after five years.

To apply, contact the school that holds your Perkins Loans. To learn more about requirements, check out the Federal Student Aid website.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

How much it’s worth: Up to $17,500 towards Direct or Stafford Loans.


  • Teach at a low-income school
  • Have no student loans originating before Oct. 1, 1998
  • Not be in default

How long it takes: Five complete and consecutive academic years.

The details: This one’s a little more complicated. The amount you can receive is based on your role. There are two tiers for Teacher Loan Forgiveness.

You can receive up to $5,000 if you’re a full-time elementary teacher or full-time secondary school teacher. But you must be teaching in an area related to your academic major.

You can receive up to $17,500 if you’re a highly qualified full-time math or science teacher in an eligible secondary school. You can also receive this award if you’re a highly qualified special education teacher if you meet certain requirements.

To be considered “highly qualified,” you must obtain a full state certification as a teacher or pass the state teacher licensing exam. You must also hold a state license (with a few exceptions).

Certain exceptions are made if you’re an elementary teacher who holds a bachelor’s degree and can meet other requirements. Visit the Federal Student Aid website for more information.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

How much it’s worth: 100 percent of your Direct Loan balance after 10 years. This amount varies depending on many factors.


  • Must be in certain public sector jobs and employed full-time
  • Must have made 120 payments starting from Oct. 1, 2007
  • Payments must be made as part of certain repayment plans
  • Not be in default

How long it takes: 120 qualified payments, which takes 10 years.

The details: This program isn’t just for teachers, although teachers can qualify. With this option, relief is more long-term than the other programs we discuss above.

This plan typically works best with other types of qualifying repayment plans. For example, you may be able to take advantage of payment plans like Income-Based Repayment (IBR). IBR will lower monthly payments and increase the amount of debt forgiven at the end of 10 years (if any).

However, if you miss any of the requirements, you’ll end up paying more in interest on your loans. To learn more about requirements, visit the Federal Student Aid website.

State programs that offer student loan forgiveness for teachers

These plans vary based on where you live and teach. It’s worth investigating if your state offers teacher student loan forgiveness. Some state programs include:


Arkansas’ State Teacher Education Program provides up to $3,000 to assist educators with repaying their federal student loans. Eligible individuals must teach in areas with a critical shortage or teach an in-demand subject.

Click here for more information about the Arkansas State Teacher Education Program.


Under Delaware’s Teacher Corps initiative, teachers who live and work in Delaware might be eligible for loan forgiveness if they teach a critical need subject. With this program, for one year of teaching in a Delaware public school you can get forgiveness equal to one year of your loans.

Click here for more information about Delaware’s Teacher Corps Program.


For teachers willing to work in low-income areas, the state of Illinois will award up to $5,000 to help individuals pay back their loan debt. To be eligible, teachers must serve five years in a low-income school.

Click here for more information about the Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment program.


The state of Iowa offers student loan repayment assistance to Iowa educators teaching in designated shortage areas. The maximum reward is $17,500.

Click here to learn more about Iowa’s Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.


Eligible borrowers can have one year of their loan forgiven for each year of eligible service. But the service must be as an educator, speech pathologist, or child care provider. Certain borrowers can have as much as two years of loans forgiven if they work in an underserved area.

Click here to learn more about Educators For Maine (EFM) Loan Program.


If you teach in an underserved or low-income community in Maryland, you could receive up to $10,000 a year to repay your student loans through the Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program.

To qualify for aid, you cannot make more than $60,000 a year if you’re single, or $130,000 if you’re married.

Click here for more information about the Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program.


Teachers in Mississippi may receive up to $3,000 a year for a maximum of four years to pay their loans. Individuals must work in specific geographic areas or teach certain subjects to be eligible.

Click here for more information about the Mississippi Teacher Loan Repayment Program.


Through Quality Educator Loan Assistance, you could receive up to $3,000 per year up to four years to help repay your loans. To qualify, you must be a full-time teacher working in rural area, a community with a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students, or a region with critical educator shortages.

Click here for more information about the Quality Educator Loan Assistance Program.

New Mexico

If you teach in a designated high-risk teacher position in a public school, you could receive aid through the Teacher Loan Repayment Program. Awards are dependent on the school’s needs for your position and your total amount of debt.

Click here for more information about the Teacher Loan Repayment Program.

New York

The New York State Education Department designed the Teachers of Tomorrow Program to recruit and retain teachers in the schools with the largest need. Eligible teachers can receive up to $3,400 per year for four years.

Click here for more information about the Teachers of Tomorrow Program.New York

North Dakota

The North Dakota University System provides teachers with $1,000 a year in loan forgiveness, up to a $3,000. Teachers must have a full-time position at a grade level or in an institution that is underserved.

Click here to learn more about North Dakota’s Teacher Shortage Loan Forgiveness Program.


If you teach math or science in Oklahoma, you could be eligible for reimbursement for certain education-related expenses or a cash benefit. The value of the repayment assistance program varies year to year.

Click here for more information about the Teacher Shortage Incentive Program.


The Texas Loan Repayment Assistance Program was designed to recruit and retain teachers in areas that have a shortage of educators. Eligible individuals can receive up to $2,500 towards their federal loans.

Click here for more information about the Texas Loan Repayment Assistance Program.

Keep in mind, state programs come and go more often than federal programs, so don’t delay if you’re eligible to apply.

Even though managing student loans on a teacher’s salary can be overwhelming, there is help out there. Programs that provide student loan forgiveness for teachers are designed to make repaying your debt a little easier.

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Published in Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Student Loan Repayment, Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness

  • Thanks for sharing this great informative article about Student Loan Forgiveness. I have found many good things in this article and no doubt I have become a big fan of your blog.

  • David Han

    For Teacher Loan Forgiveness, would I be able to get $17,500 forgiven if I am a Math Teacher in a low income school, but I did not major in Mathematics, but I have a Single Subject Math Credential?

    Is there any way to get $17,500 forgiven if you are an elementary school teacher?

  • Hi David,

    Those are great questions. On the first one, I’m honestly not sure how the qualifications work in regards to those credentials. I’d check with the Dept. of Ed. on that.

    As far as teaching elementary, I do not see any programs listed that offer $17,500 forgiven in the program description.

    Hope this helps!



    • patricr

      You can receive 17,500 if you teach Special Ed in elementary.

  • dafuggs

    How about early childhood autism?

    • Hi,

      I’m not sure I understand your question. Can you explain what you mean?



      • dafuggs

        If I pay for, or more correctly borrow from the Federal government money to be certified to teach Autism, in particular, to young children; might I be able to have loan forgiven in some manner or another?

  • Hi,

    If it meets the requirements listed above for forgiveness, then yes, you would be able to.



  • Laura Waight

    Hi! Thanks for all of the great information. In order to qualify for the Teacher Forgiveness Program, I know that I have to have taught for five consecutive years, but do all of those years need to be in a low income school? My first year of teaching was in a school that does not qualify for this status, but for the last four years, I have been at a school that does. Can I apply this year, or do I have to wait until next year?


  • Emily

    Hi Jeffrey,

    Do you know if I would qualify if I have an emergency teacher certificate and I am teaching as a substitute in a poverty stricken district? I am working FT. Thanks for this wonderful website!

  • Jackie

    Is there any loan forgiveness programs if you took out loans before 1998? I graduated college in 1998 and began teaching a year later in a low income school for over five years.

  • patricr

    Yes, if you teach Special Education at the elementary level

  • April Fernandez

    Hello! I noticed you included the refinancing options at the end, which I was interested in doing. I read though, that if you choose to refinance to one of the above private lenders then you can no longer apply for any of the Teacher Forgiveness programs. Do you know if this is true?

    • Hi April,
      Yes, that’s right. Refinancing your student loans will convert them to private loans, which generally makes them inelgible for federal programs like Teacher Loan Forgiveness. If you’re looking to get forgiveness, you probably don’t want to refinance those loans.
      If there’s anything else I can do to help, let me know.