Thinking about becoming a teacher? If so, you’ve probably considered the fact that it may be difficult to pay off your student loans on a teacher’s modest salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, kindergarten and elementary school teachers make about $51,380 per year. However, graduates fresh out of college typically make significantly less. The New York Times reports that first-year teachers have an average starting salary of only $39,000.
Fortunately, there are several government programs in place that can help teachers pay back their student loans. Here’s the skinny on loan forgiveness for teachers.
For Teachers with Stafford Loans
The Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program for Teachers offers up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness for teachers who meet the following criteria:
- You’ve been a full-time teacher for at least 5 consecutive, complete school years.
- You’ve been teaching in a low-income elementary or secondary school. The school can be public or private. You may also qualify if you’ve been teaching at an educational service agency.
- At least one of your 5 years of consecutive teaching occurred after the 1997-98 academic year.
- You have a Stafford Loan that you obtained through the Direct Loan of FFEL Programs or your have a Direct Loan or FFEL consolidation loan that you received in order to repay a Stafford Loan.
- You are not in default on the loan that you want forgiven.
- You did not have any outstanding balance on a Direct or FFEL Program loan as of October 1, 1998.
With the Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program for Teachers, you can receive up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness if you teach math, science or special education. Teachers in other subject areas can receive up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness. You can find out if your school is considered to be “low-income” by checking the Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory.
To apply, send in the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application. An important part of the application process is receiving certification from the chief administrative officer (CAO) at the school where you teach. If you taught at different schools, you’ll need the CAO from each of those schools to certify your eligibility.
For Teachers with Perkins Loans
- You teach in a low-income school.
- You are a special education teacher for children, toddlers, infants or youth with disabilities.
- You teach math, science, foreign language or bilingual education.
- You teach a subject that has a shortage of full-time teachers as determined by individual state education agencies. Check the nationwide listing of teacher shortage areas to find out if you qualify.
This loan forgiveness program is a little more lenient that the Stafford Loan program. It accommodates teachers who teach at non-profit private schools, schools on Indian reservations, preschools and pre-kindergarten programs. It even accepts teachers who are teaching part-time in two or more schools.
With the Teacher Cancellation program, 100% of Perkins loans are forgiven over the course of 5 years:
- 15% canceled per year for the first and second years of service
- 20% canceled for the third and fourth years
- 30% canceled for the fifth year
To apply for Perkins Loan forgiveness, you’ll need to get in touch with the school that holds your loans. Contact the office that administers that Federal Perkins Loan program to get the appropriate forms. Be prepared to supply documentation to prove your eligibility.
Other Loan Forgiveness Programs
Mississippi has a special program for teachers who have their Alternate Route Teaching License and teach in a shortage area. More information on this program is available at the Mississippi Public Universities website.
In addition, all teachers should check out the loan forgiveness program database maintained by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). In addition to loan forgiveness programs, teachers can also find funding for continuing education, professional development and classroom needs through this database.
Student Loan Forgiveness Quick Facts
- Loan forgiveness programs are available for teachers with Federal Perkins and/or Stafford Loans.
- Up to $17,500 of a teacher’s Stafford Loans can be forgiven, but the requirements are strict.
- Perkins Loans can be 100% forgiven if you meet the qualifications.
- Forgiveness programs are basically non-existent for private loans. If you’re struggling to pay off private student loans you can look into your lender’s repayment options, which may include income-based repayment, extended payment plans, deferment or forbearance