Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Teachers

Nicolas Cesare  | 

Student loans can be a huge burden for recent graduates who are just starting their careers. They’re even harder to pay off if you’re working in a career field that isn’t known for its big paychecks, such as teaching. Fortunately, the government recognizes the need for passionate graduates to educate the next generation, so both state and federal governments have instituted a number of programs designed to offer student loan forgiveness for teachers. Let’s go over some of these programs for teachers to learn how they could help you.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program (TLFP) is one of the most comprehensive student loan forgiveness programs for teachers. Under the TLFP, teachers who fulfill certain requirements are eligible to have up to $17,500 in direct subsidized or unsubsidized loans completely forgiven. In order to qualify for these benefits, teachers must:

  • Complete five academic years of full-time employment as a highly qualified teacher, where a highly qualified teacher is one with at least a bachelor’s degree and full state certification in the state where they will be teaching.
  • Have completed their five years of employment in a school or education service agency that services low-income children.
  • Have direct loans dating back to before the beginning of their five years of teaching.

In order to apply for the TLFP, you must fill out an application after your five years of teaching are finished and send it to your loan servicer.

Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers

If you have a Federal Perkins Loan and you are a teacher, then you may be eligible for a specific loan forgiveness program for teachers that targets Perkins Loans in particular. Perkins Loans are low-interest student loans that are given to students who demonstrate a large amount of financial need for their schooling. Unlike other federal loan programs, Perkins Loans are offered on a school-to-school basis, so any money you owe as a part of your Perkins Loan will be owed to your school or your school’s chosen loan servicer.

In order to qualify for Perkins Loan forgiveness for teachers, you must do one of the following:

  • Work as an education staff member in a Head Start program for pre-kindergarten children.
  • Work as a special education teacher for children with disabilities in a public school, nonprofit school, or educational service agency.
  • Teach math, science, a foreign language, work with bilingual students, or otherwise fulfill a teaching position in a domain with a teacher shortage.
  • Work as a full-time teacher at in an education service agency that serves low-income students.

If you meet anyone of these requirements, contact your loan servicer to request complete forgiveness of your Perkins Loans.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for Teachers

The federal government offers broad loan forgiveness programs that also happen to include teachers. In particular, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) offers student loan forgiveness to graduates who:

  • Complete 10 years total of full-time employment working for any level (federal, state, or local) of government or a nonprofit agency.
  • Continue to make student loan payments under an income-driven repayment plan during those 10 years.

Since public schools are operated by the government, they count as government employment, so teachers are eligible for this benefit. In order to apply for the PSLF, you should verify your employment immediately and switch to an income-driven repayment plan in case you haven’t already.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Income-driven repayment plans are available to anyone with student loan debt, but they can be especially useful to teachers for two reasons:

  • Income-driven repayment plans are ideal for jobs that don’t bring in a lot of income, such as teaching jobs. With an income-driven repayment plan, you can still do a job that you love without worrying about meeting your loan payments at the end of the month.
  • Income-driven repayment plans are a necessary component of qualifying for Public Loan Forgiveness as a teacher.

Right now there are four income-driven repayment plans available. They differ depending on which federal loans are eligible, borrower eligibility requirements, and repayment terms. The four programs are:

  • Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan
  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Plan
  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan
  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan

In order to apply for an income-driven repayment plan, you should apply through the Department of Education’s FSA portal.

State-Sponsored Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Teachers

In addition to federal student loan forgiveness for teachers, there are also programs in some states to help teachers manage their student loans. Here are some of the state-level student loan forgiveness programs available.

Arkansas Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers

The Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) offers a program that will repay up to $3,000 per year in student loans for teachers who teach in understaffed fields in the state of Arkansas. You can apply for this program through the ADHE website.

California Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers

California used to offer the Assumption Program of Loans for Education (APLE) that gave student loan assistance to teachers who taught in understaffed fields in the state of California. APLE is not accepting new applicants at this time, but they may reopen applications in future.

Illinois Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers

The Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program offers loan assistance of up to $5,000 to Illinois residents who:

  • Have had some amount of their student loans forgiven by a federal loan forgiveness program.
  • Still have an outstanding balance on their student loans.
  • Teach for five academic years in a low-income school in Illinois.

Teachers can download an application here for this program.

New York Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers

The Teachers of Tomorrow program offers up to $3,400 per year for four years for New York teachers who fill positions in understaffed schools, especially those in New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers. Interested teachers should contact their district’s human resources offices in order to apply.

Unlike federal loan forgiveness programs for teachers, programs at the state level can come or go as funding waxes and wanes. Always keep an eye on your state’s legislature to find out if new programs are going to be introduced in your area.


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Nick Cesare is a writer from Boise, ID. In his free time he enjoys rock climbing and making avocado toast.

This post was updated March 22, 2018. It was originally published March 25, 2018.