How to Get Teacher Loan Forgiveness for Up to $17,500

teacher loan forgiveness

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As a teacher, you probably had to take out student loans for your teaching degree(s). And as rewarding as teaching is, it remains one of the most grossly underpaid professions in the U.S. — making it especially hard to pay back your debt. But there is a ray of hope — the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness forgives up to $17,500 in federal student loans for qualifying teachers. Read on to learn more about how to get your student loans forgiven with this program, along with other tips for paying off your student debt.

What is the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program?

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness program is a federal program through the Department of Education that offers student loan forgiveness for teachers who work for at least five years in a low-income school or educational service agency.

It offers either $5,000 or $17,500 in loan forgiveness, depending on the grade and subject matter you teach.

To get up to $17,500, you must,

  • Be a highly qualified full-time math or science teacher at the secondary school level
  • Be a highly qualified special education teacher at the elementary or secondary school level who provides special education to children with disabilities

Don’t fall into these categories? You can receive up to $5,000 in student loan forgiveness for teachers.

Once you’ve completed your five years of teaching, you can submit the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application to your loan servicer to begin the loan forgiveness process.

What are the requirements?

Here are the main requirements to qualify for Teacher Loan Forgiveness:

  • Work for at least five years at an elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency that serves low-income students
  • Provide classroom teaching (or classroom-type teaching in a non-traditional setting)
  • Have a bachelor’s degree and teaching certification from your state
  • Have borrowed loans after Oct. 1, 1998

Depending on the grade level and subject you teach, you might need to fulfill additional requirements to prove you’re a “highly qualified” teacher, such as passing a state test or completing a major or graduate degree in the subject you teach.

Which loans are eligible?

The following student loan types qualify for forgiveness through the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program:

  • Direct Subsidized Loan
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loan
  • Subsidized Federal Stafford Loan
  • Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan

Note that PLUS loans and Perkins loans are not eligible, but some teachers might be able to get Perkins loan cancelation through this program.

What about private student loans?

Unfortunately, private student loans aren’t eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness — or for any federal forgiveness program for that matter.

But some states offer loan repayment assistance to teachers, so it’s worth checking with your state to see if it has a program that could help.

You can also explore refinancing your private student loans for lower rates and new repayment terms.

Can’t qualify? Other options for managing your debt

While the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program can be a great option for canceling a chunk of your student loan debt, it’s not available to everyone — and it only provides so much loan forgiveness.

Here are two other options to consider:

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): Cancels all of your federal student loan debt after 10 years in public service. Note that while you can double up with PSLF and Teacher Loan Forgiveness, you can’t work toward both at the same time. In other words, the five years you spend pursuing Teacher Loan Forgiveness cannot be used toward PSLF; you’ll need to reset the clock and start from scratch.
  • Student loan refinancing: Helpful for both federal and private student loans, and could save you a bunch on interest. Learn more about student loan refinancing in this guide, or head to our list of the best student loan refinancing lenders.

Just note that refinancing federal loans with a private lender turns them private, so it’s not a good idea if you’re working toward student loan forgiveness for teachers, PSLF, or another federal program.

By exploring your options and staying on top of debt repayment, you can find strategies for managing your student loans better and hopefully get out of debt ahead of schedule.