Teacher Loan Forgiveness | Federal Student Aid

Wondering whether you can get your federal student loans forgiven or canceled for your service as a teacher?

Learn about the forgiveness and cancellation programs to see whether you qualify.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

There are two types of loan forgiveness programs for teachers:

 


Teacher Loan Forgiveness

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program is intended to encourage individuals to enter and continue in the teaching profession. Under this program, if you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in certain elementary and secondary schools and educational service agencies that serve low-income families, and meet other qualifications, you may be eligible for forgiveness of up to a combined total of $17,500 on your Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans and your Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans. If you have PLUS loans only, you are not eligible for this type of forgiveness.

What are the eligibility requirements?
Who is considered a teacher?
How long must I teach?
Am I a highly qualified teacher?
Is the school at which I teach a low-income school?
What if I teach at an educational service agency?
How do I apply for teacher loan forgiveness?

What are the eligibility requirements?

  • You must not have had an outstanding balance on Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans as of Oct. 1, 1998, or on the date that you obtained a Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan after Oct. 1, 1998.
  • If you are in default on a subsidized or unsubsidized loan, you are not eligible for forgiveness of that loan unless you have made satisfactory repayment arrangements with the holder of the defaulted loan.
  • The loan(s) for which you are seeking forgiveness must have been made before the end of your five academic years of qualifying teaching service.
  • Any time you spent teaching to receive benefits through AmeriCorps cannot be counted toward your required five years of teaching for Teacher Loan Forgiveness.
  • You must have been employed as a full-time teacher for five complete and consecutive academic years, and at least one of those years must have been after the 1997–98 academic year.
  • You must have been employed in an elementary or secondary school that
    • is in a school district that qualifies for funds under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended;
    • has been selected by the U.S. Department of Education based on a determination that more than 30 percent of the school’s total enrollment is made up of children who qualify for services provided under Title I; and
    • is listed in the Annual Directory of Designated Low-Income Schools for Teacher Cancellation Benefits. If this directory is not available before May 1 of any year, the previous year’s directory may be used.

Note: All elementary and secondary schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)—or operated on Indian reservations by Indian tribal groups under contract with BIE—qualify as schools serving low-income students. These schools are qualifying schools for purposes of this loan forgiveness program, even if they are not listed in the Annual Directory of Designated Low-Income Schools for Teacher Cancellation Benefits.

  • Your teaching service may qualify if the consecutive five-year period includes qualifying service performed after the 2007–08 academic year at an eligible educational service agency.

If your school meets the above requirements for at least one year of your teaching service, but does not meet these requirements during subsequent years, your subsequent years of teaching at the school may be counted toward the required five complete and consecutive academic years of teaching.

Who is considered a teacher?

A teacher is a person who provides direct classroom teaching, or classroom-type teaching in a nonclassroom setting.  Special Education teachers are considered teachers.

How long must I teach?

You must teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years.

Service Completed Before Oct. 30, 2004

If your five complete and consecutive years of qualifying teaching service began before Oct. 30, 2004, please note the following:

  • You may receive up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness if, as certified by the chief administrative officer of the school where you were employed, you were
    • a full-time elementary school teacher who demonstrated knowledge and teaching skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the elementary school curriculum; or
    • a full-time secondary school teacher who taught in a subject area that was relevant to your academic major.
  • You may receive up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness if, as certified by the chief administrative officer of the school where you were employed, you were
    • a highly qualified full-time mathematics or science teacher in an eligible secondary school; or
    • a highly qualified special education teacher whose primary responsibility was to provide special education to children with disabilities, and you taught children with disabilities that corresponded to your area of special education training and have demonstrated knowledge and teaching skills in the content areas of the curriculum that you taught.

Service Beginning on or After Oct. 30, 2004

If your five complete and consecutive years of qualifying teacher service began on or after Oct. 30, 2004, please note the following:

  • You may receive up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness if you were a highly qualified full-time elementary or secondary school teacher.
  • You may receive up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness if, as certified by the chief administrative officer of the school where you were employed, you were
    • a highly qualified full-time mathematics or science teacher in an eligible secondary school; or
    • a highly qualified special education teacher whose primary responsibility was to provide special education to children with disabilities, and you taught children with disabilities that corresponded to your area of special education training and have demonstrated knowledge and teaching skills in the content areas of the curriculum that you taught.

Unable to Complete an Academic Year

If you were unable to complete an academic year of teaching, that year may still be counted toward the required five complete and consecutive academic years if

  • you completed at least one-half of the academic year;
  • your employer considers you to have fulfilled your contract requirements for the academic year for the purposes of salary increases, tenure, and retirement; and
  • you were unable to complete the academic year because
    • you returned to postsecondary education, on at least a half-time basis, in an area of study directly related to the performance of the teaching service described above; or
    • you had a condition covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA); or
    • you were called or ordered to active duty status for more than 30 days as a member of a reserve component of the armed forces.

Am I a highly qualified teacher?

To be a highly qualified teacher, a public elementary or secondary school teacher must

  • have obtained full state certification as a teacher (including certification obtained through alternative routes to certification) or passed the state teacher licensing examination, and holds a license to teach in that state, except that when used with respect to any teacher teaching in a public charter school, the term means that the teacher meets the requirements set forth in the state's public charter school law; and
  • have not had certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis.

In addition to the above—

An elementary school teacher who is new to the profession is considered highly qualified if he or she also

  • holds at least a bachelor’s degree; and
  • has demonstrated, by passing a rigorous state test, subject knowledge and teaching skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the basic elementary school curriculum (which may consist of passing a state-required certification or licensing test or tests in reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the basic elementary school curriculum).

A middle or secondary school teacher who is new to the profession is highly qualified if the teacher also

  • holds at least a bachelor’s degree; and
  • has demonstrated a high level of competency in each of the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches by
    • passing a rigorous state academic subject test in each of the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches (which may consist of a passing level of performance on a state-required certification or licensing test or tests in each of the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches); or
    • successful completion, in each of the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches, of an academic major, a graduate degree, course work equivalent to an undergraduate academic major, or advanced certification or credentialing.

An elementary, middle, or secondary school teacher who is not new to the profession is highly qualified if the teacher also

  • holds at least a bachelor’s degree; and
  • meets the applicable standards of an elementary, middle, or secondary school teacher who is new to the profession; or
  • demonstrates competence in all the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches based on a high objective uniform state standard of evaluation that
    • is set by the state for both grade-appropriate academic subject matter knowledge and teaching skills;
    • is aligned with challenging state academic content and student academic achievement standards and developed in consultation with core content specialists, teachers, principals, and school administrators;
    • provides objective, coherent information about the teacher’s attainment of core content knowledge in the academic subjects in which a teacher teaches;
    • is applied uniformly to all teachers in the same academic subject and the same grade level throughout the state;
    • takes into consideration, but is not based primarily on, the time the teacher has been teaching in the academic subject;
    • is made available to the public upon request; and may involve multiple, objective measures of teacher competency.

Is the school at which I teach a low-income school?

Each year, the U.S. Department of Education publishes a list of low-income elementary and secondary schools. To find out if a school is classified as a low-income school, check our online database for the year(s) you have been employed as a teacher. Questions about the inclusion or omission of a particular school must be directed to the state education agency contact in the state where the school is located and not to the U.S. Department of Education.

What if I teach at an educational service agency?

If you teach at an educational service agency, your teaching service may qualify if the consecutive five-year period includes qualifying service at an eligible education service agency performed after the 2007–08 academic year.

How do I apply for teacher loan forgiveness?

You apply for teacher loan forgiveness after you have completed the five-year teaching requirement. Print and complete the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application. The chief administrative officer of the school at which you performed your qualifying teaching service must complete the certification section. If you taught at more than one school during the same academic year, the chief administrative officer from one of the schools may complete the certification section. If you taught at different schools during different academic years, the chief administrative officers from all of the schools must certify your eligibility. If you need more than one chief administrative officer’s certification, the additional certifications may be provided on a separate piece of paper and submitted with your completed application. Return the completed application to your loan holder or loan servicer. If you are applying for forgiveness of loans that are held by different loan holders or loan servicers, you must submit a separate form to each of them.

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Teacher Cancellation

If you have a loan from the Federal Perkins Loan Program you might be eligible for loan cancellation for full-time teaching at a low-income school, or for teaching in certain subject areas. You can also qualify for deferment for these qualifying teaching services. Check with the school that made your Federal Perkins Loan for more information.

What are the eligibility requirements?
Who is considered a teacher?
How long must I teach?
How do I apply for teacher cancellation?
What amount can be canceled?

What are the eligibility requirements?

You qualify for cancellation (discharge) of up to 100 percent of a Federal Perkins Loan if you have served full-time in a public or nonprofit elementary or secondary school system as a

  • teacher in a school serving students from low-income families; or
  • special education teacher, including teachers of infants, toddlers, children, or youth with disabilities; or
  • teacher in the fields of mathematics, science, foreign languages, or bilingual education, or in any other field of expertise determined by a state education agency to have a shortage of qualified teachers in that state.

Eligibility for teacher cancellation is based on the duties presented in an official position description, not on the position title. To receive a cancellation, you must be directly employed by the school system. There is no provision for canceling Federal Perkins Loans for teaching in postsecondary schools.

Note that you also qualify for deferment while you’re performing teaching service that qualifies for cancellation. Contact the school that holds your loan for information on applying for deferment.

Who is considered a teacher?

A teacher is someone who provides students direct classroom teaching, or classroom-type teaching in a nonclassroom setting, or educational services directly related to classroom teaching (for example, school librarian or guidance counselor).

You don't need to be certified or licensed to receive cancellation benefits. However, your employing school must consider you to be a full-time professional for the purposes of salary, tenure, retirement benefits, etc. If you are a supervisor, administrator, researcher, or curriculum specialist, you are not considered a teacher unless you primarily provide direct and personal educational services to students.

How long must I teach?

You must teach full-time for a full academic year or its equivalent. There is no requirement that you must teach a given number of hours a day to qualify as a full-time teacher; the employing school is responsible for making that decision.

An “academic year or its equivalent” for cancellation purposes is defined as one complete school year or two half-years that are from different school years. The two half-years must be complete and consecutive, excluding summer sessions, and must generally fall within a 12-month period.

Teaching Part-time at Multiple Schools

You can have your loan canceled if you are simultaneously teaching part-time in two or more schools if an official at one of the schools where you taught certifies that you taught full-time for a full academic year.

Teaching at a Private School

Your loan can be canceled for services performed in a private school if the private school has established its nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and if the school is providing elementary and/or secondary education according to state law.

Teaching at a Preschool or Prekindergarten Program

Your loan can be canceled only if the state considers such a program to be a part of its elementary education program. A low-income-school-directory designation that includes prekindergarten or kindergarten does not suffice for a state determination of program eligibility.

Teaching at Low-income Schools

A cancellation based on teaching in a school serving students from low-income families will be granted only if you taught in an eligible school as determined by the state education agency. To be considered a “low-income school,” the school must be in a school district that qualified for federal Title I funds in the year for which the cancellation is sought. Also, more than 30 percent of the school’s enrollment must be made up of children in the Title I program.

Each year, the U.S. Department of Education publishes a list of low-income elementary and secondary schools. To find out if a school is classified as a low-income school, check our online database for the year(s) you have been employed as a teacher. Questions about the inclusion or omission of a particular school must be directed to the state education agency contact in the state where the school is located and not to the U.S. Department of Education.

All elementary and secondary schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)—or operated on Indian reservations by Indian tribal groups under contract with BIE—qualify as schools serving low-income students.

NOTE: If you have had a portion of your loan canceled for teaching at a low-income elementary or secondary school in one year, you can continue to have portions of your loan canceled for teaching at that school even if it is not listed as a low-income school in later years. Under certain circumstances, the institution that holds your Perkins Loan may permit retroactive cancellation if you can demonstrate that you qualified for cancellation in a prior year. However, the institution may not refund payments made during such a retroactive period.

Teaching at an Educational Service Agency

If you teach at an educational service agency, your teaching service may qualify for cancellation if the period includes qualifying service that includes August 14, 2008, or begins on or after that date.

Teaching Special Education

You must have an official at the public or other nonprofit elementary or secondary school certify that you are a full-time special education teacher of infants, toddlers, children, or youth with disabilities either on the Federal Perkins Loan deferment/cancellation form or on an official letter from the school bearing the school's seal or letterhead.

If you provide one of the following services, you qualify as a teacher only if you are licensed, certified, or registered by the appropriate state education agency for that area in which you are providing related special educational services, and the services you provide are part of the educational curriculum for handicapped children.

The services are

  • speech and language pathology and audiology,
  • physical therapy,
  • occupational therapy,
  • psychological and counseling services, and
  • recreational therapy.

Teaching in a Designated Subject Shortage Area

This cancellation is based on full-time teaching if there is a shortage of teachers in your subject area. Each year the state education agency determines any subject shortage areas in the elementary and secondary schools within the state. Check with your local school system or state education agency to find out if your subject-matter area has been so designated. If you teach full-time in science, mathematics, foreign language, or bilingual education, you qualify for cancellation even if the state has not designated one of these subject areas as a shortage area. For a borrower to be considered as teaching in a field of expertise, the majority of classes taught must be in that field of expertise.

Nationwide Listing of Teacher Shortage Areas

You may download a PDF or Word version of the list of teacher shortage areas nationwide.

How do I apply for teacher cancellation?

You must request the appropriate forms from the office that administers the Federal Perkins Loan program at the school that holds your loan. You must also provide any documentation the school requests to show that you qualify for cancellation of your Perkins Loan. It is the school’s responsibility to determine whether you qualify, and the school’s decision cannot be appealed to the U.S. Department of Education. Schools may not cancel any portion of a loan for teaching services you performed either before the date the loan was disbursed or during the enrollment period covered by the loan.

What amount can be canceled?

If you are eligible for cancellation under any of the categories listed above, up to 100 percent of the loan may be canceled for teaching service, in the following increments:

  • 15 percent canceled per year for the first and second years of service
  • 20 percent canceled for the third and fourth years
  • 30 percent canceled for the fifth year

Each amount canceled per year includes the interest that accrued during the year.

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