Student Loan Forgiveness For Teachers: What You Need To Know

Being a teacher comes with an array of benefits. From having the summers off to taking advantage of incredible health benefits, teaching definitely has its perks. Along with the perks, though, come a few cons, with one of the most burdening being a hefty amount of student loan debt to pay off. Unless you go to college with cash in hand to pay for your courses or on some type of full scholarship or grant, you are likely going to graduate with upward of $30,000 in loan debt. On a positive note, however, is the fact that there are a variety of programs that provide student loan forgiveness for teachers. Let’s take a close look at each of these programs and how they can benefit you.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

To qualify for this forgiveness program, you will have to teach for five consecutive years at a school that serves low-income families. Also, the only loans that qualify for this program are federal Stafford and Direct loans. It is also important to note that only up to $17,500 may be forgiven under this program. The Teacher Loan Forgiveness program is especially ideal for teachers who graduate college with a minimal amount of debt. And while the debt that can be forgiven is minimal when compared to the amount that can be forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program does offer a forgiveness on a quicker basis.

If you want to pursue forgiveness through this program, it is advised that you first check to see if the school you want to gain employment through qualifies. You can do this by checking the Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory. As stated before, the maximum amount to be forgiven under this program is $17,500; however, the amount that you will qualify for will depend on the subjects that you teach as well as the grade level you are teaching.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness for Teachers

One of the best programs to take advantage of is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Under this program, you will be required to gain employment for at least 10 years at an eligible government or non-profit school. Please keep in mind that only federal Direct loans qualify for this forgiveness program; however, if you have other federal student loans, you can consolidate them under a Federal Consolidation Loan and they will then qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Another piece of criteria that must be met when qualifying for this program is that you have made 120 on-time payments for your loans; but, these loans don’t have to be consecutive. Also, it does not matter what your loan repayment amounts are in the amount of time it takes you to make 120 on-time payments. This means if there is a period of time that your payments are $0, these payments will still qualify.

It is imperative for you to understand that employment at any of the following will not qualify you for forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program:

  • Partisan organizations
  • Labor unions
  • Non-profit organizations that are not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3)

Also, as stated before, if you paid for your schooling using Federal Family Education Loans or a Perkins Loan, you can still qualify for forgiveness under this program, but you will first need to consolidate them with a Federal Consolidation Loan. Furthermore, this program is beneficial because there is no limit to how much of your debt can be forgiven; this makes this program especially ideal for teachers who have a large amount of student loan debt. Even better is that the amount forgiven will not be taxed by the IRS.

Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers

Under this forgiveness program, there is only one type of loan that qualifies — Federal Perkins Loan. You must work on a full-time basis at a qualifying school, which can be found in the Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory. You can also qualify for this program if you teach any of the following subjects:

  • A foreign language
  • Math
  • Special education
  • Bilingual education
  • Science
  • A subject that falls under the designated teacher shortage category

One of the neatest things about the Perkins Loan Cancellation program is that it takes place over a period of five years. During your first and second years of employment, 15 percent of your loan debt will be forgiven. During your third and fourth years, 20 percent of your debt is forgiven, and the remaining 30 percent is forgiven once you have completed your fifth year of teaching.

Is It Possible to Combine Forgiveness Programs?

Yes, it is possible to combine forgiveness programs, but you can’t combine them at the same time. Take for example you want to take advantage of Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness. To use both of these programs, you will need to work a total of 15 years at a qualifying school. There are three main pieces of criteria that will help you choose which forgiveness programs are best for you:

  • The amount of time you plan to teach
  • The amount of student loan debt you have
  • The types of positions you desire to pursue

State-Specific Forgiveness Options

It is highly encouraged that you check into state-specific forgiveness programs. Take for example if you work in Maine as a teacher. You can have a year’s worth of payments forgiven for each year you work. In New York, teachers can have $3,400 a year forgiven for up to four years under the Teachers of Tomorrow Program.

The Takeaway

Teaching is a career that has a major impact on society. Studies show that on average, a teacher will impact more than 3,000 students during their career. 98 percent of people believe teachers majorly influence the course of their students’ lives. If this is a career you are interested in pursuing, make sure you are aware of the forgiveness programs mentioned above.

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Bob Givens
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