Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers
Fewer students are choosing to enroll in programs that could help them to become teachers, when experts compare current enrollment rates to those seen a decade or two ago. In California, for example, enrollment in programs like this has dropped by 66 percent in a decade, according to an article in EdSource.
It’s hard to know exactly why these numbers are dropping, but it’s possible that simple finances play a role. Tuition and associated education fees seem to rise each and every year with no end in sight, and in response to this economic pressure, some students might choose to enroll in somewhat profitable careers in business or medicine, rather than teaching. By enrolling in high-profit fields of study, these students reason, they’ll be able to pay back their tuition costs with ease.
It’s reasonable for students to behave this way, but the fact of the matter is that communities need teachers. Students need to learn a number of vital details about how the world works, so they can participate as successful adults in their communities. Since officials recognize that need, they’ve developed a number of student loan forgiveness programs made just for teachers. These programs have strict eligibility requirements, but they can make the field of education look just a little more appealing to students, and that might help enrollment numbers to rise accordingly.
Typical Cost of an Education
Students who want to work as teachers begin the journey by obtaining a bachelor’s degree. The cost of this degree can vary quite a bit, depending on the school the student chooses, but it’s safe to say that the cost of this portion of the education experience could run into the thousands.
Some students choose to augment that bachelor’s degree by enrolling in a master’s degree program in education. The costs associated with that enrollment can also vary by school, but typically, master’s-level education comes with a higher tuition bill. The Harvard Graduate School of Education, for example, charges $41,616 for full-time tuition
in the 2014-2015 academic year, and when other fees and expenses are added in, a student’s expenses could top $67,000 for one year. That’s much higher than the cost of some undergraduate programs.
Online programs can sometimes keep costs under control, and students who participate in programs like this won’t be required to live on campus or near campus, so they might have smaller bills associated with everyday living. A program like this at the University of Cincinnati costs $21,750 per year in tuition for students who don’t live in Ohio. That’s much cheaper than an on-campus tuition program, but it’s still quite expensive.
It’s safe to say that students who choose to become teachers are likely to emerge from the educational experience with a big stack of bills that they’re required to pay. But it can be hard for students to pay these bills, as their salaries might not be generous. In 2006-2007, for example, the highest average teacher salary reported in a survey by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) was $63,640. That’s hardly enough to help a teacher pay bills and get ahead. The four types of student loan forgiveness available to teachers can help.
Eligible teachers have taught for five consecutive years in schools that serve families with low income levels. (The U.S. Department of Education keeps a list of eligible schools, and that directory can help teachers understand whether or not their work counts toward this program.) Teachers must also be able to prove that they’ve made all of their payments on time during their employment.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program might also be helpful for teachers who have federal loan products. Eligible teachers are required to prove that they’ve made 120 on-time payments on their Direct Loans, and when they made those payments, they must be employed at a qualifying public service organization, like a government agency or a not-for-profit school.
Teachers who have Perkins Loans might be eligible for loan cancellation if they have been teaching full-time in a low-income school or in some other educational institution that meets eligibility requirements. Typically, teachers who participate in this loan cancellation program must also prove that they’re teaching in a field of study that has a shortage of qualified teachers. Similarly, teachers can qualify if they teach students with disabilities.
These programs can help a number of teachers with loans, but they’re not the only type available. In fact, there are a number of loan cancellation programs that are available at the state and local level. The AFT provides a searchable database that can help teachers to find resources that can help them. It’s difficult to list eligibility requirements for these specific programs, as they’re likely to vary dramatically.
While many teachers might qualify for programs at the state and local level, and when they do, they might see their debts wiped away, most programs do require teachers to make a good-faith effort to pay back their loans when they graduate. Falling behind can close the door to assistance, so it’s vital that teachers do whatever they can to keep up with their payments until they become eligible for forgiveness.
Even teachers who do keep up with their payments might not be eligible for forgiveness, however, if they don’t work in eligible schools or if they don’t teach subjects deemed high priority. Students like this might qualify for Income-Based Repayment programs, however, which provide borrowers with the ability to pay only what their budgets will allow, with forgiveness after 25 years of successful payments. That’s a long time to pay back a loan, but it could be a good option for some teachers.
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