Teaching is one of the most important professions in the world, 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.
The average entry-level salary in the U.S. for elementary school teachers is $39,296, according to PayScale. Couple that salary with potentially high student loan debt and it’s clear that the figures don’t favor an easy period of paying back student loans.
Because it can be time consuming to sift through all the details of federal and state loan forgiveness programs for teachers, we’ve broken it down for you. Below are some options available that may help you dig yourself out of debt.
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness
- Federal Teacher Cancellation for Perkins Loans
- State programs that offer student loan forgiveness for teachers
How much it’s worth: Up to $17,500 toward 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 and 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 a new elementary teacher who holds a bachelor’s degree and can meet other requirements. Visit the Federal Student Aid website for more information.
How much it’s worth: 100% 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 your 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 may end up paying more in interest on your loans. To learn more about requirements, visit the Federal Student Aid website.
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 (assuming you have one pre-2017): Up to $27,500.
Requirements: You must teach for at least one year and meet one of the below requirements:
- Teach at a low-income school (search the directory)
- 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, and 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 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.
It’s worth investigating whether your state offers teacher student loan forgiveness programs. These plans vary based on where you live and teach, and all of them have specific requirements. Below is a list to get you started on your search.
- New Mexico
- New York
- More state programs
Arkansas’ State Teacher Education Program provides up to $3,000 per year (or $4,000 per year for licensed minority teachers) 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 have served five years in a low-income school.
Click here for more information about the Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment 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, a speech pathologist or a child care provider. Certain borrowers, like teachers and speech pathologists, can have as many 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’re a teacher (among other professions) 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, your annual gross salary cannot exceed $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. There will be no awards made for the 2019-20 year, but applications are open for 2020-21 until March 31, 2020.
Click here for more information about the Mississippi Teacher Loan Repayment Program.
Through Quality Educator Loan Assistance, you could receive up to $3,000 at the end of your first year of teaching, then $4,000 at the end of the second year and $5,000 up until the third year to help you repay your loans. After the third year, state funding ends, but your school district could opt to offer you $5,000 at the end of your fourth year of teaching.
To qualify, you must be a full-time teacher working at an “impacted school” and in a subject that has been deemed a “critical quality educator shortage area.”
This program lost its funding in 2017 but returned in 2019. It is now operated out of the Office of Public Instruction. You can find more information about the Quality Educator Loan Assistance Program here.
If you teach in a designated high-risk position (bilingual education, special education and mathematics, among others) 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.
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 Teachers of Tomorrow.
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.
Residents of Tennessee who teach math or science may be eligible for the Tennessee Math and Science Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. This program offers $2,000 per academic year to math and science public school teachers and those seeking advanced teaching degrees in either subject. The amount cannot exceed $10,000. Click here for more information about the Tennessee Math and Science Teacher Loan Forgiveness 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.
Similar to a teachers loan forgiveness program, the Virginia Teaching Scholarship Loan Program (VTSLP) offers up to $10,000 per academic year to education students studying in the state of Virginia who commit to a teaching career in critical shortage teaching areas like special education and English as a Second Language (ESL).
These awards are contingent on teaching in Virginia schools for at least one year after graduation. Click here to learn more about the VTSLP scholarship.
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 for educators.
For more information, see our longer list of student loan forgiveness programs and options that are designed to make repaying your debt a little easier.
Maya Dollarhide contributed to this report.
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of Feburary 1, 2021.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.99%-5.15% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.17%-4.47% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.