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If you’re a teacher, you likely took on student loan debt and are struggling to repay them. While researching your options, you may have heard about student loan forgiveness for other professions, but thought you didn’t qualify.
But student loan forgiveness for teachers exists at both the national and state levels — here are your options:
- National loan forgiveness programs for teachers
- State loan forgiveness programs for teachers
- Consider student loan refinancing
National loan forgiveness programs for teachers
There are three student loan forgiveness programs available from the federal government that teachers are eligible for.
1. Perkins Loan Cancellation
Good for: Full-time public or non-profit elementary or secondary school teachers
Value: Up to 100% of your federal Perkins loans
If you work full-time in a public or non-profit elementary or secondary school, you could get your Perkins loans discharged through Perkins Loan Cancellation.
To qualify, you must meet one of the following criteria:
- You work for a school serving low-income families
- You are a special education teacher
- You teach mathematics, science, foreign languages, bilingual education, or any other field of expertise designated by a state education agency as a having a shortage
A portion of your loans will be discharged for every year you teach:
- 15% canceled per year for the first and second years of teaching
- 20% canceled for the third and fourth years
- 30% canceled for the fifth year
The amount canceled per year includes the interest that accrued during the year.
To apply for Perkins Loan Cancellation, contact the school that made the loans or your loan servicer.
2. Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Good for: Private school teachers that work for a qualifying nonprofit or government agency
Value: Up to 100% of your remaining federal student loans
If you’re a teacher at a private school that is a nonprofit organization, you could qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Under this program, you must work for a qualifying nonprofit organization or government agency for 10 years and make qualifying payments toward your loans. After you’ve made 120 qualifying payments, your remaining loan balance is forgiven.
Payments made under one of the income-driven repayment plans, such as income-based repayment or Pay As You Earn, count toward PSLF, so you can get a reduced payment and still qualify for loan forgiveness.
Use the PSLF Help Tool to see if your loans are eligible for forgiveness and if your current employment qualifies for PSLF.
3. Teacher Loan Forgiveness
Good for: Teachers with Federal Direct Loans
Value: Up to $17,500 of your Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans
If you have Federal Direct Loans, you may be eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness. Through this program, a portion of your loans can be discharged after you teach for five complete and consecutive years.
Your employment must be at an elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency that serves low-income students, and the loans must have been issued before the end of your five years of service.
- To get the full $17,500: You must be a highly qualified teacher in the field of mathematics, science, or special education
- To receive up to $5,000: You can be a teacher of other subjects
After completing your five years of teaching, fill out the Teacher Loan Forgiveness forms and submit them to your loan servicer.
State loan forgiveness programs for teachers
If you’re repaying private student loans or are otherwise ineligible for the national teacher loan forgiveness programs, there are other options available to you. Many states operate loan forgiveness or loan repayment assistance programs to recruit and retain teachers in high-need areas.
For example, there is the High Needs Educator Student Loan Payment Program in Delaware. Teachers who work in high-need schools or who teach a high-needs subject, can get up to $2,000 per year in loan repayment assistance, for up to five years. For more information or to apply, visit the Delaware Department of Education website.
If you’re a teacher in Texas, you could qualify for the Teach for Texas Loan Repayment Assistance Program. If you are certified in a field that has a teacher shortage, you may qualify for up to $2,500 in loan repayment assistance in exchange for a service commitment. For more information or to apply, visit the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board website.
Consider student loan refinancing
Unfortunately, not everyone will qualify for loan forgiveness, or you may only be able to get assistance with a portion of your debt. If that’s the case, there are still ways to better manage your loans.
One of the most effective strategies is student loan refinancing. If you have good credit and a stable income, you can save a significant amount of money through refinancing and even pay off your debt early. With Credible, you can get several offers from different refinancing lenders at once, helping you find the best rates.