Teaching is one of the most important professions, but it’s at risk of losing top talent due to low pay and long hours. 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
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 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:
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.
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. For 2016 graduates, the maximum reward is $6,858 or 20 percent of the recipient’s total eligible federal loan balance.
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.
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.
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.
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. These programs are designed to make repaying your debt a little easier.
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