Q: Can I get federal student loan forgiveness if I'm a teacher?

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Both public school teachers and private school teachers may qualify for 4 different federal student loan forgiveness programs:

  1. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
  2. The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
  3. The Perkins Loan Cancellation Program for Teachers
  4. Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness

The federal student loans that qualify for forgiveness vary under each plan. But, in general, teachers can get loan forgiveness for:

  • Federal Direct Loans - including Direct Consolidation Loans
  • Direct Subsidized Loans
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans
  • Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • Federal Family Education Loans
  • Federal Perkins Loans

Let's explore each federal teacher loan forgiveness program.

But before I do that, let me say this about these loan forgiveness options.

The PSLF Program is the best of the federal loan forgiveness programs

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program provides the most value for borrowers who owe a lot in federal student loans. You can get more of your student loan debt forgiven faster under this Program.

Both the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and the Perkins Loan Cancellation program forgives only a few thousand dollars in federal student loans.

And the forgiveness offered at the end of an income-driven repayment plan takes forever to get to. You have to make 240+ monthly student loan payments to qualify.

Teaching is a Public Service Job

Teachers who work for a public school district or a private school qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

The PSLF Program will forgive your entire loan balance for all of your Direct Loans if you meet the programs 4 requirements:

  1. Work full-time
  2. Work for the government or a non-profit
  3. Enroll in an income-driven repayment plan
  4. Make 120 monthly payments on your Direct Loans while in an IDR Plan

It's not necessary that you keep working as a teacher to qualify for loan forgiveness. You can become a counselor. You can move into administration as a principal. You can even become the school superintendent.

Teaching isn't what qualifies you for the PSLF Program. Instead, you are eligible because two things are true:

  1. You work full-time and
  2. You work for the government or a non-profit (private school)

How to apply for the PSLF Program

You can apply for this Program by submitting a completed Public Service Loan Forgiveness Application your loan servicer.

You'll submit the application after you make your 120th qualifying payment.

Click here to learn:

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

Some, but not all teachers, can get up to $17,500 in federal student loan forgiveness under the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.

To qualify for this forgiveness option, you must:

  • teach full-time for 5 complete and consecutive academic years;
  • serve as a highly qualified teacher
  • work at an elementary school or secondary school;
  • teach in a low-income school or educational service agency; and
  • meet not have had an outstanding balance on Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loan Program loans as of Oct. 1, 1998, or on the date that you got a Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan after Oct. 1, 1998
  • must seek forgiveness for a loan made before the end of your fifth year of teaching.

So you know, you can check whether your school is a low-income school by using the Annual Directory of Designated Low-Income Schools for Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory.

The TCLI directory lists all the schools eligible for Teacher Cancellation Benefits.

Also, you're considered a highly qualified teacher if:

  • you have attained at least a bachelor's degree;
  • you've received full state certification as a teacher; and
  • you haven't had certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis.

You've received full state certification even if:

  • you got your certification through alternative routes to certification or
  • you got it by passing the state teacher licensing examination.

How to apply for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

You can apply for forgiveness of your student loan debt by submitting a completed Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application to your loan servicer. You'll want to submit the application after you complete your fifth year of qualified teaching.

Perkins Loan Cancellation for teachers

The Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation Program will cancel up to 100% of tour Perkins Loans if you teach full-time and meet these other qualifications:

  • teach full-time at a public or non-profit elementary or secondary school system
  • teach at a school serving students from low-income families
  • serve as a special education teacher, including teaching infants, toddlers, children, or you with disabilities or
  • teach mathematics, science, foreign languages, bilingual education, or any other field of expertise as determined by your state agency as having a shortage of qualified teachers in your state

Under this forgiveness option, your loan forgiveness is staggered.

You get 15% of your Perkins Loan balance forgiven after your first and second years of teaching.

You get 20% of your balance forgiven after your third and fourth years.

And you get 30% of your balance forgiven after your fifth year of teaching.

How to Apply for Perkins Loan Cancellation

You apply for Perkins Loan Cancellation by contacting the school that made your Perkins Loan.

Your school or its loan servicer will provide you with forms and instructions to discharge your loan.

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