With Payscale listing the average starting salary for a teacher at $38,960 and the average student loan debt for 2016 graduates over $37,000, it makes sense educators would look into ways to pay off their debts.
Luckily, there’s the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, but applying for this perk can be complicated.
Here is everything you need to know about the Teacher Loan Forgiveness application: How to fill it out, timelines, required documents, eligibility, and more.
What is the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program?
The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program is meant to encourage college students to become teachers by forgiving up to a combined total of $17,500 of your Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, and Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans.
If you have PLUS or Perkins Loans only, you are not eligible for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. However, your Federal Perkins Loans may qualify for cancellation, based on eligible employment or volunteer experience. Take a look at this cancellation chart to see how much of your Federal Perkins Loans qualify.
Who should fill out the Teacher Loan Forgiveness application?
First and foremost, eligible applicants must be full-time, highly qualified teachers for five consecutive academic years in certain elementary or secondary schools, or educational service agencies serving low-income families. However, there are also other requirements to consider before filling out the Teacher Loan Forgiveness application.
- You must not have a history of outstanding balances on Direct Loans or FFEL Program Loans.
- You are not eligible if you are in default on a loan unless you’ve made repayment arrangements.
- The loan(s) must have been made before the end of your five years of qualifying teaching service.
- Time spent with AmeriCorps does not count towards the required five years of teaching.
- The elementary or secondary school where you’re employed must be in a school district that qualifies for funds under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
- There is a list of eligible schools in the Annual Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory. If this directory is not available before May 1 of any year, use the previous year’s directory.
- Some elementary and secondary schools that are operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) or are on Indian reservations may not be in the directory, but they all still qualify as schools serving low-income students.
Who is a ‘highly qualified’ teacher?
According to Federal Student Aid, an applicant must meet these basic requirements to be considered a highly qualified teacher:
- They must have at least a bachelor’s degree.
- Applicants must have a full state certification as a teacher (including certification obtained through alternative routes to certification).
- There cannot be a history of “certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis.”
Some teachers — such as those who teach mathematics, science, foreign languages, or special education — may still qualify for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program even if they’re not in a low-income school. These subject matters can be determined by your state education agency to have a shortage of qualified teachers.
How do you apply for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program?
Do you meet all of the requirements above? Great! You can now fill out the Teacher Loan Forgiveness application.
- First, you have to print out a physical application; you can’t fill it out online. You can find the application here.
- Fill out all sections that say “TO BE COMPLETED BY THE BORROWER.”
- Have the principal or dean at your school fill out section five, “CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER’S CERTIFICATION.”
- If you’ve worked for more than one school during the five years you are counting toward your loan forgiveness, an administrator from each school must fill out section five on the form. Provide any additional certifications on a separate piece of paper and submit with your completed application.
- Once you’ve completed the form, you must submit it to your student loan holder or servicer. If you don’t know this information, head to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). This is where the U.S. Department of Education keeps a central database for student aid. You should be able to log in if you already have an FSA ID. Otherwise, create an account to track your loan and find info about your lender or servicer.
- If you have multiple loan holders or servicers, you must submit an application to each of them. Lenders and servicers will review applications and process them if applicants meet eligibility requirements.
When will you hear about the status of your Teacher Loan Forgiveness application?
The worst part is always the waiting game once you’ve applied. You may have to wait as long as 45 days to find out if your Teacher Loan Forgiveness application was accepted.
If you feel it’s taking longer than usual, you can always check in with your lender or servicer to make sure they have everything they need.
How much of your loan is forgiven if your application is accepted?
There are two tiers of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program:
- Full-time elementary teachers or full-time secondary school teachers. If you’re teaching in an area related to your academic major or demonstrate knowledge and teaching skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the elementary school curriculum, you can receive up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness.
- Highly qualified teachers. If you’re a full-time math or science teacher, or special education teacher in an eligible secondary school, you can receive up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness.
How is Teacher Loan Forgiveness different from Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
The Teacher Loan Forgiveness program and Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF) can often be confusing. If you’re a teacher, you may qualify for both. Or, if you don’t qualify for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, you may still be eligible for PSLF.
The employment qualification requirements are much broader when it comes to PSLF. As a teacher, you are not required to teach at a low-income a public school. Even full-time public and private elementary and secondary school teachers could meet the employment requirements.
In addition to the eligibility differences, the terms of the loan forgiveness vary. If you qualify for PSLF, 100 percent of your remaining student loan balance is forgiven after making 120 qualifying payments and working in public service for ten years.
You can apply for both programs, but only one will be enacted when it comes to forgiving your student loans.
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