Q: How to apply for student loan forgiveness for teachers?

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Teachers, whether they work in public, private, or charter schools, qualify for two student loan forgiveness programs:

  1. Teacher Loan Forgiveness and
  2. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program is for teachers who work full-time at low-income schools (Title 1), secondary schools, or an educational service agency.

To apply, you have to download and complete the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application. Once completed, submit the application to your loan servicer for processing.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is for teachers and other full-time public servants that work for the government or a nonprofit organization.

You apply for the PSLF Program by submitting the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Application to your loan servicer, which should be FedLoan Servicing.

Now that we know how to apply for the loan forgiveness programs, let’s talk about when to apply for loan forgiveness.

Teachers also qualify for loan forgiveness under the income-driven repayment plans. But those plans take at least 20 years before they offer loan forgiveness

When should teachers apply for loan forgiveness?

You should apply for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program once you teach 5 consecutive years at an eligible school.

You should apply for PSLF after you make your 120th qualifying payment under a qualifying repayment plan. (Each of the income-driven repayment plans qualifies for PSLF.)

How much loan forgiveness are teachers eligible for?

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program will forgive either $5 thousand or $17,500 in federal student loans.

Teachers who teach mathematics, science, or special education, qualify for the more massive amount of forgiveness.

Full-time elementary or secondary education teachers who don’t teach one of those subject areas, but are considered highly qualified teachers qualify for the lower amount.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program has no cap.

So long as you meet the program’s eligibility requirements, the U.S. Department of Education will forgive the remaining balance due on your federal Direct Loans.

Which federal student loans are eligible for loan forgiveness?

Here are the eligible loans for the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program:

  • Direct Subsidized Loans
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans
  • Direct Consolidation Loans
  • FFEL Subsidized Loans
  • FFEL Unsubsidized Loans
  • FFEL Consolidation Loans
  • ​Stafford Loans

Loans made under the Federal Perkins Loan Program and the Parent Plus Loan Program don’t qualify for this forgiveness program.

Teachers can get their Perkins Loans forgiven under the Perkins Loan Cancellation Program. You qualify if you teach full-time at a low-income school or if you’re a special education teacher, science teacher, secondary school teacher, or teach in a field designated by the state as teacher shortage areas.

The PSLF Program is more restrictive on the types of loans eligible for forgiveness. Under that federal program, only loans made under the Direct Loan Program are eligible for forgiveness.

Loans made under the FFEL Program Loans and the Perkins Loan Program are not eligible for this program. You can make them eligible, however, by consolidating them into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Can you get Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

Teachers can qualify for both the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. But you can’t be eligible for them at the same time.

Here’s what I mean.

Let’s say you’re a full-time teacher at a public school serving low-income families.

After teaching for 5 consecutive academic years, you meet the requirements to get loan cancellation.

But here’s the thing:

The federal government will forgive no more than $17,500 of your Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loans forgiven.ff

You’ll still owe your remaining federal student loan debt.

As for the PSLF Program, you’ll still have to make 120 monthly payments under a qualified repayment plan before you meet the eligibility requirements for forgiveness.

But what if you made payments during the first 5 academic years? Don’t those count as qualifying payments for PSLF?

No, they don’t.

Why not? You can’t qualify for teacher cancellation and PSLF at the same time. You have to choose the one that offers you the most loan forgiveness.

Which forgiveness program should you choose? That depends on how much federal student loan debt you have. If you owe around $17,500, you probably want to select teacher cancellation. But if you owe a lot more than that, PSLF is the way to go.

Do Title 1 schools pay off loans?

Title 1 schools don’t pay off loans. Instead, working at a Title 1 school can lead to loan forgiveness for teachers under a federal or state loan forgiveness program after a number of years of teaching.

What schools qualify for federal loan forgiveness programs?

All schools in a public school district qualify for the PSLF Program. Similarly, charter schools and private schools are eligible for the program if they’re either owned by the government or are a 501(c)(3).

If you’re trying to get your loans forgiven under the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, the easiest way to find out if your school qualifies for that program is to check the name of the school against the Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory.

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