What to know about the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

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Educators who meet the eligibility criteria may be able to get student loan forgiveness. (Shutterstock)

Student loan debt can be overwhelming, especially for borrowers who aren’t in a high-paying field. If you are a teacher with student loans, you may qualify for loan forgiveness choice. Here’s what you need to know about the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.

If you are considering refinancing your loans, you can use Credible to compare student loan refinance rates from various lenders in minutes.

What is the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program?

Teacher Loan Forgiveness is a federal program for full-time teachers who work in low-income schools or educational service agencies. It was created to encourage teachers to work in areas where there is a shortage of qualified teachers. To qualify for the teacher loan forgiveness program, you must have federal loans and be considered a highly qualified teacher by the US Department of Education.

How much can we forgive?

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program offers up to $17,500 in forgiveness. You can receive the full $17,500 if you are a highly qualified special education teacher at the elementary or secondary level, or a highly qualified math or science teacher at the secondary level.

You could be eligible for up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness if you work in a different field, as long as you meet the other requirements.

What are the eligibility requirements for teacher loan forgiveness?

You may be eligible for teacher loan forgiveness if:

  • You have been employed as a full-time teacher for five consecutive years. You must prove that you have taught full-time for a consecutive period of five years. It is important to note that one of these years must be after the 1997-1998 academic year.
  • You worked at a qualifying school or educational services agency. You must have taught at a primary or secondary school, or at a local educational agency, that serves low-income students.
  • You have federal student loans. You have direct federal loans, federal stafford loans or a direct consolidation loan or a federal consolidation loan.
  • You are a highly qualified teacher. You must meet the criteria of the US Department of Education as a highly qualified teacher.
  • You have no outstanding balances on previous loans. You must not have an outstanding balance on Direct Loans or Federal Home Education Loans as of October 1, 1998, or the date you received a Direct Loan or FFEL Loan after October 1, 1998. Additionally , the loans for which you are requesting forgiveness were made before the end of your five years of qualifying teaching service.

What does it mean to be a “highly qualified” teacher?

According to the US Department of Education, you are a highly qualified teacher if:

  • You hold at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • You hold a state teaching diploma.
  • No certification or licensing requirements have been waived, revoked or suspended for any reason.

Unfortunately, you will not be eligible for teacher loan forgiveness if you are a school administrator, school counselor, school librarian, or other education staff. You must be a teacher working in a classroom for an eligible employer.

What is considered a low-income school or educational services agency?

You can use the Directory of Low-Income Teachers (TCLI) to determine if your workplace qualifies as a school or low-income educational services agency.

You will need to click on yearbook search and select the school year and state you live in. To narrow your search, you can also enter the name of your school or educational agency.

If you are considering refinancing your student loans, you can use Credible to compare student loan refinance rates without affecting your credit score.

How do I apply for teacher loan forgiveness?

If you qualify and want to apply for teacher loan forgiveness, follow these steps:

  1. Complete the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application. You can find the application on the Federal Student Aid website. You will need to provide your personal information as well as your employment details. You must also indicate if you have ever applied for teacher loan forgiveness. Make sure your teaching start and end dates include the month, date, and year.
  2. Contact your administrative manager. Contact the chief executive officer (CAO) of your school or agency to complete the certification section of the form. This person will likely have access to your academic records and will be able to confirm your employment. This could be your manager, your assistant manager, your superintendent or someone from human resources.
  3. Send the form to your loan officer. Once your application is complete, submit it to your loan officer(s) at the end of your fifth year of teaching. Make sure you have a copy for your records before sending it.

Keep in mind that if you have taught at different schools during the five-year period, the superintendent of each school must complete the certification section. And if you have multiple loans from different loan servicers, you’ll need a separate form for each.

If you’re not sure how many loans or services you have, check your Federal Student Aid account. Once logged in, you will be able to find all of your student loans and loan managers.

Your loan manager will determine how long it will take for your application to be processed. To avoid delays, make sure you have completed your application accurately. Remember to verify that your account has the correct contact information and continue to make your student loan payments to stay in good standing.

Can teachers benefit from the Civil Service Loan Forgiveness Program?

Civil Service Loan Waiver (PSLF) is another option you might want to explore if you’re a teacher. It is a loan cancellation program for public service workers, including teachers.

To qualify for the Civil Service Loan Relief, you must be a qualified full-time employee of a government entity or non-profit organization. You must also have direct federal loans under an income-based repayment plan. Once you have made 120 qualifying payments, you may be eligible to have the remaining balance on your loans forgiven. Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and Federal Perkins Loans are only eligible if you consolidate them into a direct consolidation loan.

Can you get both teacher loan forgiveness and utility loan forgiveness?

You may be able to take advantage of both the teacher loan forgiveness and the civil service loan forgiveness. But you will need to have separate periods of teaching service to do so. For example, if you receive teacher loan forgiveness after five years of teaching, you will not be able to count any of those payments toward the civil service loan forgiveness. You must make 120 additional eligible payments beyond this teaching period if you wish to benefit from the PSLF.

State Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Teachers

If you are not federally eligible student loan forgivenessIt’s a good idea to look into state loan forgiveness options for your profession. The available forgiveness programs and their eligibility requirements depend on where you live. You can use the American Federation of Teachers Database to find out what’s offered in your state and school district.

Can private student loans be forgiven?

Private student loans are generally not eligible for loan forgiveness. The good news is that you may be able to refinance or even postpone these loans. Although refinancing doesn’t forgive your loans, it can lower your monthly payments, reduce your interest rate, or allow you to pay off your debt sooner.

With deferment, you may be able to temporarily defer your payments, especially if you are having financial difficulty. You will need to contact your lender to find out if this is an option and how it works.

You can compare student loan refinance rates quickly and easily with Credible.

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