Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers: Do You Qualify?
If you’re educating young minds but still paying for your own higher education received years ago, you might want to look into student loan forgiveness for teachers.
Contributing Writer at Tally
July 28, 2022
A teacher‘s job can be very fulfilling. After all, educators mold the young minds of our future leaders. Unfortunately, those just starting their profession often have the challenge of paying off several years of student loans that can eat up a sizable portion of their income.
Fortunately, there is student loan forgiveness for teachers. If you’re considering studying to become an educator or you’re already working in a classroom, read on to learn more about your loan forgiveness options and how to qualify.
What is student loan forgiveness?
Student loan forgiveness for teachers — or anyone dealing with student loan debt — means that the borrower no longer needs to repay a portion, or all, of the loan. The debt is forgiven, and the borrower may walk away without any penalties or hits to their credit score.
You may be aware of student loan forgiveness as a result of policies enacted under President Biden’s administration. However, student loan forgiveness in and of itself is not a new concept. There are policies and procedures already in place to help certain individuals — such as those dedicating their careers to a teaching services field — forgo their remaining student loan repayment.
Will student loans be forgiven for teachers?
The short answer is yes; there are student loan forgiveness programs for teachers with federal student loans.
As mentioned, the Biden administration has forgiven a large amount of student loan debt to date. But it remains to be seen whether the administration will continue to do so and whether teachers specifically will receive this financial aid.
In the meantime, you can look into some of the forgiveness programs that are already in place for teachers. As we’ll detail below, these are not blanket forgiveness programs. Instead, they have certain qualification requirements to determine eligibility.
What qualifications are needed for student loan forgiveness for teachers?
If you are a teacher hoping to qualify for student loan forgiveness, you’re likely going to have to meet a few different criteria.
These criteria can vary but may depend on things such as:
The type of loan you’re seeking to have forgiven.
The number of academic years you’ve spent teaching.
The subject area in which you teach.
Your payment history.
Loan forgiveness programs are open to more than traditional classroom teachers. Special education teachers, guidance counselors and school librarians may also be eligible, as long as they meet the program requirements.
It’s also worth mentioning that forgiveness is typically only possible with federal student aid. If you have private student loans, you may be able to negotiate repayment plans with your lender directly. However, you will not be eligible for forgiveness under any programs offered by the U.S. Department of Education or other government agencies.
What are the different student loan forgiveness programs for teachers?
There are three federal programs that provide student loan relief to teachers: the Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation Program, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Each has its own set of rules.
1. The Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation Program
The Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation Program is for full-time teachers, school librarians and guidance counselors with Perkins Loan debt who work directly with elementary school or secondary school students. Up to 100% of the loan and interest accrued can be discharged or canceled through the program, based on the years of service as a teacher.
To qualify, you must be one of the following:
A teacher working with low-income families.
A special education teacher.
A foreign language, math, science or bilingual education teacher.
A teacher specializing in a subject with a shortage of qualified teachers.
Private school teachers are eligible for this program, but only if their school has established nonprofit status with the IRS. The school must also be offering elementary or secondary education as defined by your local state law.
To calculate how much of the Perkins Loan will be forgiven, use the following figures:
First and second years of full-time teaching: 15% forgiven per year.
Third and fourth years of full-time teaching: 20% forgiven per year.
Fifth year of full-time teaching: 30% forgiven.
Fifth year of eligible service under certain unique scenarios: 100% forgiven.
You can apply to the Perkins Loan Program by contacting the school or loan servicer that made the loan. There is also an online database to help you determine whether your school is classified as a low-income school.
2. The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program is open to current full-time teachers who work with students in either traditional classrooms or non-classroom settings. Teachers must have five complete and consecutive years of teaching experience to be eligible.
The forgiveness amounts are limited to a maximum of $17,500 for teachers at low-income schools and $5,000 for teachers at other schools.
Teachers with Perkins and PLUS loans are not eligible for loan forgiveness through the program. You must have a Direct Loan or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) to qualify. Further qualifications include:
You must be a highly qualified teacher with a bachelor’s degree and state certification.
You must have worked at a qualifying school.
You must have worked full time for five consecutive years, with one of those years being after the 1997-1998 school year.
The loan(s) you are seeking forgiveness for must have been made before the completion of your qualifying five years of employment.
If you’re eligible for the program, you need to fill out the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application to get started.
3. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
Of the federal programs for loan forgiveness, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) has the broadest employment qualification requirements. Most full-time private and public school teachers will meet the work requirements.
You must have Federal Direct Loans. If you have other types of loans, like a Perkins Loan or a FFEL, you can consider combining them under a direct consolidation loan.
You must be repaying the loan using an income-driven repayment program, even during the loan forgiveness application process.
You must have made 120 on-time payments on the loan, although these qualifying payments don’t need to be consecutive.
To apply, fill out and submit the PSLF Application for Forgiveness.
Can I do Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness?
Yes, it is possible to receive loan forgiveness through both the Teacher Loan Forgiveness and the PSLF program. But keep in mind that any loan payments you made during the five years of teaching service that qualified you for Teacher Loan Forgiveness normally can’t be counted toward your PSLF qualification.
The government has made an exception to this due to COVID-19 that is in place through October 31, 2022.
Are there alternatives to federal loan forgiveness programs?
Another option for loan forgiveness is a state-sponsored program. Many states offer loan forgiveness, though eligibility may be geared toward those who teach in an area of high need. High-need teachers typically include foreign language, math and science teachers, among others.
You can use the American Federation of Teachers’ database to search for local forgiveness programs in your area.
Are teacher’s student loans forgiven after 10 years?
No, teacher’s student loans are not automatically forgiven after 10 years. You must apply for loan forgiveness under one of the programs listed above.
One of the biggest stipulations for eligibility is that you make your monthly student loan payments on time. If you don’t, you may not be eligible for a forgiveness program. If you’re having trouble doing so, consider creating a budget to ensure you‘re making your monthly payments.
Is student loan forgiveness for teachers worthwhile?
If you‘re a teacher with student loans, you should consider looking into forgiveness programs. Student loan forgiveness for teachers allows you to lower your principal balance and increase the likelihood of paying the loan off entirely. Doing a bit of research will allow you to determine whether you meet the forgiveness eligibility requirements.
While you’re evaluating your student loan debt, it may be worth looking into your credit card debt as well. If you have credit card debt, consider a payoff app like Tally†. Tally not only helps you pay down your credit card debt quickly and efficiently, but it also helps you manage all of your due dates to increase the likelihood of making minimum monthly payments on time.
†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.