For most teachers, the teaching profession is rewarding for reasons other than the money teachers can earn. However, getting a teaching degree often involves taking out student loans, a significant financial burden with a new teacher’s salary. Various student loan forgiveness programs are available to teachers to reduce or even eliminate their debt if they meet specific requirements.

Teacher loan forgiveness

For teachers with a small amount of federal Direct or Stafford loan debt, the Master Loan Forgiveness program is the fastest way to obtain loan forgiveness. The program applies specifically to subsidized and unsubsidized Direct and Stafford loans. To qualify, the teacher must teach full-time for five consecutive years at a qualifying low-income school. The US Department of Education posts a list of qualifying schools on its website. Aimed to attract more secondary math, science, and special education educators, the program forgives up to $17,500 of debt for teachers in those majors. Teachers of other subjects in elementary or secondary schools can have up to $5,000 forgiven.

Public Forgiveness Loan Service

Teachers who graduate with an enormous debt under a William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan program may find the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program to be a better option. The program is offered to any public service employee who works full-time for a government or non-profit public service organization. Teachers working for a qualifying public school, who have made 120 loan payments on time, can receive up to 100% forgiveness on their remaining student loan debt. Other types of federal loans do not qualify for the program unless consolidated into a direct loan consolidation loan, but then the 120 minimum payment requirement starts over. If a teacher takes a different job within the education system, such as an administrator, the program still forgives the debt. Because the program began in 2007, PSLF waiver applications cannot be submitted until October 2017, the first month when ten years of teaching service can be completed.

Perkins Loan Cancellation

The Perkins loan cancellation program could eliminate up to 100% of teachers’ federal Perkins loan debt. The program explicitly targets teachers who work full-time at an eligible school or specialize in math, science, special education, a foreign language, or bilingual education. Qualified teachers can apply after their first and second years in a qualifying teaching position and receive a 15% reduction in their loan balance each year. After its third and fourth years, the program forgives another 20%. The remaining 30% is dismissed after the fifth year. However, the program is ending; Perkins loans will not be available after 2017. Borrowers have until September 30, 2016, to apply for the program.

Specialized programs

Teachers who take a position at an accredited health professionals college may be eligible to receive up to $40,000 in student loan repayments. With some colleges, reimbursement payments are matched by the college. The program, sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services, only requires a two-year commitment.

State programs

Some states offer extra help for loan repayment or forgiveness. Teachers who have lived in New Mexico for at least a year and committed to a two-year job at a low-performing school could have most of their federal loans forgiven. In Illinois, teachers can receive a $5,000 match for loan forgiveness. North Dakota pays eligible teachers $1,000 per year for three years toward their federal loans. Arkansas pays up to $4,000 a year for three years toward loan forgiveness. Montana, Mississippi, and Texas have similar programs.

Neither of these programs applies to private student loans. For students seeking teaching credentials, only a direct or federal Stafford loan offers the opportunity for loan forgiveness.

By Master James

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