College is expensive. Luckily there are programs that can help to mitigate the cost of an education, and I am here to talk specifically about teacher loan forgiveness. Federal Student Aid created a program that applies to teachers who meet certain eligibility criteria, forgiving up to $17,500 of student loans. Read on to learn about eligibility requirements, and how to apply for the program.
- You must not have had an outstanding balance on Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans as of Oct. 1, 1998, or on the date that you obtained a Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan after Oct. 1, 1998.
- You must have been employed as a full-time, highly qualified teacher for five complete and consecutive academic years, and at least one of those years must have been after the 1997–98 academic year.
- You must have been employed at an elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency that serves low-income students (HCSS does qualify).
- The loan(s) for which you are seeking forgiveness must have been made before the end of your five academic years of qualifying teaching service.
What does it mean to be a highly qualified teacher? The answer is slightly different depending on what subject and grade level you teach. All teachers must have a bachelor’s degree, a provisional (or higher) teaching license in their subject area, and their licensure requirements must not have been waived in order to earn the license. Other requirements may be passing the relevant MTEL tests, having a degree in the subject area, and/or some other equivalent.
In order to be eligible, you must be employed by a school that serves low-income students. HCSS East and West both meet this requirement, so teaching full-time for five consecutive years at our schools will check that box as long as you were a highly qualified teacher for those five years.
The forgiveness amount varies depending on which subject you teach. A highly qualified secondary math or science teacher is eligible for the full $17,500 forgiveness. A highly qualified special education teacher in elementary or secondary school is also eligible for the full $17,500 forgiveness. Any other highly qualified teacher is only eligible for $5,000 forgiveness, which is still quite significant. The one drawback is that claiming this loan forgiveness makes those 5 years ineligible to count for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), but new legislation recently passed to change that. As of last October, those 5 years will still count towards the 120 required payments for PSLF, and it is possible to utilize both programs if necessary.
If you meet the requirements for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, then all it takes is a completed application to be considered. The approval process can take a few months, but once your employment is verified the forgiveness will happen automatically and your student debt will be a lot lighter.