If you’re part of the teaching profession, you may qualify for a few student loan forgiveness options that are designed to forgive a significant portion of your student loan debt, or cancel your student debt entirely.
As a teacher, you know how rewarding your profession can be, yet these rewards sometimes come at the expense of making a comfortable salary. Fortunately, you do have options that could have a real impact on your student loan debt, so you can continue to focus on making an impact on the students you teach.
How to Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers
While the requirements for obtaining teacher loan forgiveness or teacher cancellation may appear complex, if you’ve been engaged in the profession for some time, you could already qualify for one of these student debt relief options.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness
To qualify for student loan forgiveness for teachers, one of the first requirements is teaching full-time for five complete and consecutive years at a qualifying low-income elementary school, secondary school or educational service agency. In addition, one of these years must have been completed after the 1997-1998 academic year. It should also be noted that Special Education teachers also qualify as teachers for the teacher loan forgiveness program.
Low-income schools, as described by the Department of Education are:
- Schools in a district that qualify for funding under Title I the amended Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
- Schools selected by the Department of Education that consist of over 30 percent of students who qualify for services under Title I
- Schools listed in the Annual Directory of Designated Low-Income Schools for Teacher Cancellation Benefits
- Schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) or operated on Indian reservations by tribal groups while under contract with BIE
- Low-income schools listed on the Department of Education’s online database for the years you taught at the school
- Qualifying educational service agencies any time after the 2007-08 academic year
Furthermore, even if your school qualified under any of the above requirements during at least one year of your teaching service, subsequent years at the school may still be counted towards your five years of required service. Also, if you were unable to complete a full academic year of teaching under these conditions, the year may also be considered if:
- You finished more than one-half of the academic year
- School leadership regards your time as a fulfillment of contract requirements
- Circumstances prevented you from completing the academic year if
- Your return to postsecondary education in a directly related area of study on at least a half-time basis
- A condition covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 prevented you from completing the year
- You spent more than 30 days in active duty status as an Armed Forces reserve member
Last of all, you will need to be a borrower of a qualifying federal student loan which is not in default. These loans include all Direct Loans and Federal Stafford Loans originating after October 1, 1998, but does not include PLUS Loans.
Perkins Loan Cancellation
If you have obtained a Perkins Loan, you may be able to qualify for loan cancellation or deferment, depending on your eligibility.
Qualifying for a teacher cancellation first requires you to be a teacher whose school serves low-income families; a Special Education teacher who teaches disabled students ranging from infants to secondary school-age youth; a teacher in a field that includes mathematics, science, foreign languages, bilingual education, or any other field established by your state’s education agency as having a shortage of qualified teachers. Please note, the above criteria also apply to student loan deferments for teachers.
For the purposes of the Perkins Loan Cancellation, you are considered a teacher if you:
- Teach students directly in a classroom setting
- Offer classroom-type teaching in a non-classroom setting
- Provide educational services directly related to classroom teaching (e.g. school librarians or guidance counselors)
In addition to qualifying as a teacher, you will need to complete at least one full academic year, or its equivalent, as a full-time teacher. This may include two consecutive half-years, excluding summer sessions, and typically be within a 12-month period.
Other considerations for this requirement include:
- Teaching part-time in two or more schools simultaneously if one of the school’s officials certifies you as a full-time teacher
- Teaching at a private school with nonprofit status as designated by the IRS, and the school provides elementary and/or secondary education approved by state law
- Teaching at a preschool or prekindergarten program that is considered part of a school’s elementary education program by the state
- Teaching at a low-income school as designated by your state’s education agency, meaning it is in a school district that qualified for federal Title I funds for the year you are seeking cancellation for, and enrollment consisted of over 30 percent of students in the Title I program
- Teaching at a school listed on the Department of Education’s online database for low-income schools
- Teaching at an elementary or secondary school operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) or operated on Indian reservations by tribal groups while under contract with BIE
- Teaching at an educational service agency on or after August 14, 2008
- Teaching Special Education full-time to disabled students ranging from infants to secondary school-age youth as a licensed, certified, or registered instructor whose services are part of the educational curriculum for handicapped children, which include:
- Speech and language pathology and audiology
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Psychological and counseling services
- Recreational therapy
- Teaching in a subject area that has been designated as having a shortage by your state’s education agency for the year you are seeking cancellation; however, if you taught full-time in the following subject areas, you also qualify if the majority of classes you teach include:
- Foreign language
- Bilingual education
Another Option for Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness
For teachers with a substantial amount of student loan debt, there’s also a chance you could qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, which offers debt forgiveness to eligible applicants. Learn more about the PSLF Program.
Find out if you can take advantage of teacher loan forgiveness or cancellation for free.
How Student Debt Relief for Teachers Works
Here you’ll find more information on Student loan forgiveness for teachers and Perkins Loan Cancellation.
Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers
Loan forgiveness for teachers works in two ways. If your five years as a teacher took place before October 30, 2004, you may be eligible for $5,000 in loan forgiveness if you were a full-time elementary school teacher or secondary school teacher whose skills and knowledge meet specific requirements for certification by the school’s chief administrative officer.
Highly qualified teachers, on the other hand, could have debt up to $17,500 forgiven if you taught mathematics or science full-time in an eligible secondary school, or you served as a Special Education teacher whose skills and education was primarily used to instruct students with disabilities.
If your five years of service as a teacher took place after October 30, 2004, you will need to qualify as a highly qualified teacher to earn these same benefits. For highly qualified full-time elementary or secondary school teachers, this means you can receive up to $5,000 in student loan forgiveness, while highly qualified mathematics, science, and Special Education teachers can receive up to $17,500 in total loan forgiveness.
What is a Highly Qualified Teacher?
A highly qualified teacher is someone who has:
- Earned full state teacher certification or passed the state teacher licensing exam, in addition to holding a license to teach in the state, or working in a public charter school after meeting the requirements of the state’s public charter school law
- Not received emergency, temporary or provisional waivers on certification or licensure requirements
For those who are new to the profession and seeking highly qualified teacher status, elementary school teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree and demonstrate a high degree of general subject knowledge, which may consist of state-required tests for certification or licensing.
Likewise, highly qualified middle and secondary teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree and demonstrate a high level of competency in the academic subjects they teach, which may include passing rigorous state academic subject tests, or successfully completing advanced education or certification in each of the taught subjects.
If you’re not new to the profession and you’re an elementary, middle or secondary school teacher, you are considered highly qualified if:
- You have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher; and
- You meet the above conditions for an elementary, middle or secondary school teacher new to the profession
- You demonstrate competence on the subjects you teach based on a high objective uniform state standard of evaluation that
- Is established by the state for grade-appropriate academic subject matter knowledge and teaching skills
- Aligns with challenging state academic content and student academic achievement standards and developed in consultation with core content specialists, teachers, principals, and school administrators
- Offers objective, coherent information about your attainment of core content knowledge in the academic subjects in which you teach
- Is applied consistently to all teachers in the same academic subject and the same grade level throughout the state
- Considers, but is not chiefly based on, the time you’ve been teaching in the academic subject
- Is made available to the public upon request; and potentially involve multiple, objective measures of your competency
Perkins Loan Cancellation
Through a Perkins Loan Cancellation, you could have up to 100 percent of your student loan debt discharged after meeting teacher cancellation requirements.
However, even if you meet all the qualifications for a Perkins Loan Cancellation, this type of cancellation only offers incremental forgiveness depending on the amount of time you have served as a qualified teacher. These are:
- Cancellation of 15 percent for 1-2 years of service
- Cancellation of 20 percent for 3-4 years of service
- Cancellation of 30 percent for 5 years of service
Please note that the percentage of cancellation includes the interest that has accrued on your Perkins Loan for the year it is being applied.
For more details on student debt relief for teachers, speak with a student loan specialist by phone at (800) 794-9034.
STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS Student loan repayment has undergone tremendous reform over the past few decades. As part of these federal student debt relief initiatives, new options have become available to…
STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS Student loan repayment has undergone tremendous reform over the past few decades. As part of these federal student debt relief initiatives, new options have become available to those looking to benefit from today’s student loan forgiveness programs.Learn More