The Complete Guide to 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, among other reasons. The annual turnover rate for teachers is 15.7%, 3.8% higher than the average of other professions.

For 2012-13, the national average starting teacher salary was $36,141. Education majors have lower salary potential when compared to other majors, according to Meanwhile, the average student loan debt for the 2014 graduate (regardless of major or profession) was about $33,000. It’s clear that these numbers aren’t in favor of teachers ability to repay their student loans.

Fortunately, teacher student loan forgiveness from the federal and some state governments provide some relief. We know it’s not simple to sift through all the details of student loan forgiveness to figure out what you’re qualified for. So we’re breaking down the teacher student loan forgiveness options available that will help teachers dig themselves out of debt.

Federal Teacher Cancellation for Perkins Loans

How much it’s worth: Up to $27,500

Requirements: You must teach at least one year at a low-income school or teach in certain subject areas.

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

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

The Teacher Loan Cancellation Program is pretty specific about what position you need to hold. You must meet one of the below requirements:

1. Teach at a low-income school. (Click here for a list)
2. Teach special education.
3. Teach in mathematics, science, foreign languages, or bilingual education.
4. Teach in a field that has a shortage of qualified teachers in your state.

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

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

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

Requirements: You must teach at a low-income school. You can’t have student loans originating before Oct. 1, 1998, and you can’t be in default on your loans.

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 teaching in an area related to your academic major.

You can receive up to $17,500 if you’re a highly-qualfied full-time math or science teacher in a 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-qualfied,” you must have obtained a full state certification as a teacher or passed 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% of your Direct Loan balance after 10 years. This amount varies depending on many factors.


1. Must be in certain public sector jobs and employed full-time
2. Make 120 payments starting from October 1, 2007
3. Payments must be made as part of certain repayment plans
4. Not 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 with 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 and City Loan Forgiveness Programs

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

Some state programs include:


How much it’s worth: One to two year’s worth of student loan payments for each year as a teacher.

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


How much it’s worth: Up to $6,658 or 20% of the recipient’s total eligible federal student loan balance

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

North Dakota

How much it’s worth: $1,000 per year for up to three years.

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


How much it’s worth: $3,000 per year for up to four years.

Click here to learn more about the Mississippi Teacher Loan Repayment Program.

State programs come and go more often than federal programs, so don’t delay if you’re eligible to apply

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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.

  • 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?



  • 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?


  • patricr

    Yes, if you teach Special Education at the elementary level