If you’re like most teachers, you took out a student loan or two to cover your education. But now that you’ve graduated, you’re looking at paying thousands (or even tens of thousands) of dollars in student loans back, and it’s daunting.
The federal student loan repayment pause that began in 2020 ends in the autumn of 2023. According to the Department of Education, student loan interest will resume starting on Sept. 1, 2023, and payments will be due starting in October.
Maybe you’ve heard about student loan forgiveness for teachers, and you’re wondering how you might qualify because erasing that debt is pretty darn appealing.
Read on to learn what’s available and how to apply.
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What Is Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers?
Do teachers get student loan forgiveness? Some may, in fact.
There are several programs that offer teachers the opportunity to forgive some or all of their student debt. Given that the average student loan debt is $54,921 per borrower, not having to pay this back could be a huge boon!
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Types of Student Loan Forbearance
Student loan forgiveness has been obtainable for years. If you think you qualify for any of the forbearance programs because of your income or your career choice, go to the Department of Education website to learn more and obtain forms.
The way it works with some of these forbearances is you won’t have to make a loan payment, or you can temporarily make a smaller payment. However, the loan won’t go away unless it’s paid off or canceled, cautions the Department of Education.
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1. Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF)
One option for student loan forgiveness for teachers is called Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF), and it forgives up to $17,500 of a Direct or FEEL Subsidized or Unsubsidized loan. PLUS and Perkins loans are not eligible for forgiveness under this program.
To qualify for having student loans forgiven through this program, you must teach at a qualifying school for five consecutive years, starting after the 1997-98 school year.
Only certain highly-qualified special education and secondary math or science teachers qualify for the full $17,500 forgiveness; others may qualify for up to $5,000. If you have taught through AmeriCorps, this time cannot count toward your required five years of teaching for the TLF program.
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2. Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers
Another option for teacher student loan forgiveness is the Perkins Loan Cancellation Program. The full amount of your Federal Perkins Loan may be forgiven if you teach certain subjects full-time or teach at a low-income school.
The program cancels your loan in increments:
- 15% the first and second year
- 20% the third and fourth year
- 30% the fifth year
Some of the subjects taught that may qualify you for this loan forgiveness program include math, science, foreign languages, and bilingual or special education.
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3. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Another solution for student loan forgiveness that teachers should consider is Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which forgives the remaining balance of Federal Direct loans after you’ve made 120 qualifying payments.
With this program, you aren’t required to teach at a low-income public school, though you do need to work for a qualifying employer like:
- Government organization
- Not-for-profit organization
To qualify, you must have Direct loans. If your loans are FFEL or Perkins, you must consolidate them to qualify. You can get the most out of this program by applying for an income-driven repayment plan.
President Joe Biden has strengthened the PSLF program in order that more people can participate. A tool on the StudentAid.gov website can help you find out if you’re eligible.
(Learn more at Personal Loan Calculator)
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4. State-Specific Student Loan Forgiveness
There are other loan forgiveness programs in certain states that you may qualify for, so check this American Federation of Teachers database to see what’s available in your state.
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5. TEACH Grant
While this isn’t like the other student loan forgiveness programs for teachers, it is an option to get your education paid for if you are currently enrolled in coursework required for a career in teaching.
There is a requirement to complete a teaching service obligation. If you don’t, the grant will be converted into a loan that you must repay.
To qualify, you must be eligible for federal student aid and be enrolled as an undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, or graduate student at a school that participates in the TEACH Grant Program. You must also meet academic achievement requirements.
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Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness Eligibility
With each program that offers student loan forgiveness for teachers, there are certain criteria to qualify. Some require that you teach at a qualifying school (often in low-income areas) or teach certain subjects for a number of years.
Others require you to have a specific type of student loan in order to have it forgiven.
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Options if You Don’t Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness
If you don’t qualify for any of the options for student loan forgiveness for teachers, there are other ways you may be able to get help with your student loans.
Student Loan Refinancing
You may be able to get a different interest rate and loan term if you refinance your federal student loan.
Be sure to weigh the risks and benefits of refinancing a student loan, and consider whether now is the best time to refinance, given that student loans are currently under forbearance.
If you are interested in refinancing, be aware that doing so may disqualify you from being eligible for student loan forgiveness programs for the amount that you have refinanced.
Student Loan Repayment Grants
There are also grants available that may help you cover part or all of your student loan debt. Some may require you to work in a certain industry or be of a certain ethnicity.
Income-Driven Repayment Plans
Income-driven repayment option means you can pay what you can afford. President Joe Biden has created the SAVE program.
The SAVE Plan is the most affordable repayment plan for federal student loans yet, according to the Department of Education. Borrowers who are single and make less than $32,800 a year won’t have to make any payments at all. (If you are a family of four and make less than $67,500 annually, you also won’t have to make payments.)
For federal borrowers who are required to make payments (this depends on your income and family size) and have only undergraduate school loans, the monthly payments will be cut in half — from 10% of discretionary income to 5%.
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