Updated: November 4, 2020
In this Article

    How do new teachers offset their education and training expenses before (or during) entry into a traditionally lower-paying career field? One way is through financial aid programs such as the TEACH Grant, designed to offset the cost of higher education for those who want to work as teachers and other education professionals.

    Teach Grant In 2019, Forbes.com published an article noting that some 44% of new teachers leave the field within five years, and 18% work a second job. That may not translate to a teacher shortage in the minds of some, but to those actually doing the work (or training to start teaching) these numbers are a reality that must be dealt with.

    The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant is a federal financial aid program aimed at those pursuing a teaching degree. These grants are offered on a conditional basis (see below) It’s not the only program–we’ll cover others in brief below–but this federal grant is one of the most highly-visible programs of its type.

    How The TEACH Grant Works

    This program is a “two-way street” type plan created to benefit both the teachers who receive the grant and the students who will learn in that teacher’s classrooms after completing the program.

    TEACH grants are not offered to all applicants. Only those who agree to teach, “a highly needed subject in a low-income area where there’s a shortage of specific subject teachers in an elementary or secondary school.”

    At press time, there is a list of eligible subject matter areas that qualify applicants for this important grant:

    • Bilingual education
    • “English language acquisition”
    • Foreign languages
    • Math
    • Reading specialties
    • Science
    • Special Education
    • Certain other fields noted as “high-need by the federal or state government, or a local education agency” according to the Sallie Mae official site

    In order to accept this grant, students must agree not only to teach in one of the areas above, but also to work in certain locations after the awardee’s school program has finished including:

    • Low-income schools or educational agencies
    • TEACH grant awardees must teach for four years in an approved school
    • Documentation of the work meeting these requirements must be submitted to the Department of Education

    TEACH Grant Amounts

    Those approved for a TEACH grant may qualify for up to $4,000 a year while attending classes that count toward your degree.

    Who Qualifies For TEACH Grants

    Applicants must meet the following requirements for TEACH Grant approval:

    • All applicants must be eligible for federal student aid programs
    • You must be either an undergraduate or graduate student
    • The school you enroll in must be a participating member of the TEACH grant program
    • The program of study itself must be deemed eligible for TEACH grant funds

    At press time, applicants must score “above the 75th percentile” on “one or more portions of a college admissions test” or carry a minimum 3.25 cumulative grade point average.

    Application Procedures

    Applying for a TEACH Grant is familiar to anyone who has applied for college before; this and many other types of financial aid at the federal level require completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA form.

    The application period is traditionally opened on Oct. 1st of each year, and it’s best to apply as possible because some federal programs run out of funds and cannot support all qualified applicants.

    TEACH grants must be re-applied for each year via FAFSA, and each year the following steps must be taken:

    • Take initial TEACH grant counseling
    • Receive new TEACH Grant “subsequent counseling” each year
    • Sign an Agreement To Serve each year

    What Happens If You Do Not Complete Your Program

    Those attending school with TEACH grant funds and do not meet the requirements of the service obligation, any such grants paid are converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans, also known as Stafford Loans. In these cases the student is required to pay the loans off in full with interest calculated from the date of each grant payment.

    Other Grant Programs For Teachers

    • Troops To Teachers is a DoD program administered via DANTES (Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support) and is offered to “current and former members of the Armed Forces” who want to transition into careers as K-12 teachers after retiring or separating from the military.
    • The Federal Transition into Teaching Program is described as an “umbrella program” that includes the Federal Pell Grant. It also involves loans and loan forgiveness programs for those who want to teach under-served communities and serve in ways similar to the requirements for TEACH grant awards.
    • There are two types of federal grants offered via Academic Competitiveness and National SMART Grants for those interested in teaching STEM or STEM-adjacent subjects including science, math, languages, engineering, or technology. The award you qualify for depends greatly on your status as an undergrad or graduate student.
    • Professional development – The McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation provides grants for teachers interested in “groundbreaking k-12 classroom instruction.” Grant amounts have traditionally been awarded up to $10,000 with a cap on grants of $30k over three years.

    Teacher Loan Forgiveness Programs

    While grants are incredibly useful, some students may not qualify for them, or may have missed out on the opportunity to apply while funds were still available. In such cases, student loan forgiveness programs can be just as helpful (albeit in a delayed fashion) as the grants themselves.

    There are federal and state-level programs aimed at helping new teachers; in addition to searching your state and local government official sites for such programs, don’t forget to search for options such the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. This option, for those who have Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized loans, allows those who meet certain program requirements to be forgiven up to $17,500 on those types of loans.

    Requirements for this particular program include:

    • Teaching full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years
    • The teaching must occur “in a low-income school or educational service agency”
    • May be required to meet “other qualifications”

    There is also help for some students who had a Direct Consolidation Loan or a Federal Consolidation Loan. Applicants may be eligible “for forgiveness of the outstanding portion of the consolidation loan” that repaid one of the following eligible loans:

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

    Another option is via Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which may be an option for those with the following student loan types:

    • Direct Federal Student Loans
    • Direct Plus loans
    • Direct Consolidation loans

    This program definitely requires some long-term planning; applicants are only approved after being a full-time employee “in a public service job” and make 10 years of on-time monthly payments “after consolidating your federal loans in a qualified repayment program.” For the purposes of this program, “public service job” is defined as any of the following:

    • Employment at the federal, state, local, or tribal level
    • Tax-exempt Not-for-profit organizations
    • Non-tax-exempt groups that provide “a qualifying public service”
    • Full-time AmeriCorps volunteers
    • Full-time Peace Corps volunteers

    Privately-issued student loans are NOT eligible for this program.

    About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News

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