Veterans Benefit Options for Becoming A TeacherUpdated: March 20, 2021
There are many options for veterans who want to become a teacher. As a veteran your ability to pay for school is greatly enhanced by your veteran status with or without the use of the GI Bill. Many qualifying veterans have used federal, state, and private financial options to become a teacher; knowing where to look is sometimes half the battle.
There are different kinds of funding sources; obviously you can use your GI Bill to become a teacher, but it is best to look for other sources of financial help before touching your GI Bill benefits.
For example, those who are still serving can use military tuition assistance while attending classes while in uniform. You can take a variety of prerequisite classes and meet other basics full or part time (depending on your needs) with other funding aside front the Montgomery GI Bill or the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
Types Of Non-GI Bill College Funding Options
There are several choices–you can find college funding for teaching careers via private non-profits such as Teach For America (see below), through federal programs such as Troops To Teachers, and you can also find state-level options to help you get teacher training or certification such as the Texas Workforce Commission’s incentive programs to encourage people to try teaching. Where to start first?
Sometimes it’s best to explore your most localized options first–your status as a veteran and a citizen of the state you seek veteran benefit options in can help you qualify for a range of state or local programs.
Ask The VA
The Department of Veterans Affairs has certain programs for those who are about to leave military service, those who have just retired or separated, and family members of eligible veterans. The VA has programs like its Chapter 36 Educational and Career Counseling. If you qualify for such programs you can get help that includes:
- Counseling to help you decide on your post-service career and education options
- Educational and Career Counseling to help you find the right training program
- Academic and adjustment counseling
These are all offered for those who are eligible to sign up for the VA Veteran Readiness and Employment Program, which can be a great start for information gathering, research, and knowing your resources. Learn more at the VA official site.
At the national level, programs like Troops To Teachers have a lot to offer those trying to make the jump from a career in uniform to a career in education.
Troops To Teachers began in 1994 as a partnership between the Department of Defense and The Department of Education. Designed to help “qualified service members transition from the military to teaching careers” this program has expanded from a previously active-duty-only option. It now includes reserve-component service members.
Since the year 2000 the program has been run under the auspices of the DOE but continues to have daily operations managed by the DoD.
This program is administered at the state level, and may require veterans to take the PRAXIS test. One benefit of the Troops To Teachers program is that the Defense Activity For Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) program will pay for PRAXIS test fees.
Troops To Teachers is not a certification program; instead it provides teacher certification counseling, referrals for employment, and for qualifying applicants up to $5,000 (in FY 2020-amounts are always subject to change) to help with the expenses of teacher certification training.
Additional bonuses of up to $10,000 may be available for those willing to teach in “high-needs schools” for a minimum time commitment (three years in FY 2020, though that may be subject to change).
Teacher Loan Forgiveness is a federal program for those with Direct Consolidation Loans or Federal Consolidation Loans.
These students may be eligible “for forgiveness of the outstanding portion of the consolidation loan that repaid an eligible Direct Subsidized Loan, Direct Unsubsidized Loan, Subsidized Federal Stafford Loan, or Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan.” Qualifying education and service guidelines include:
- The applicant must be employed as a full-time, highly qualified teacher for five complete and consecutive academic years
- At least one of those years must have been after the 1997–98 academic year
- Qualifying employment includes work at an elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency that serves low-income students
- The loan to be forgiven must be issued before the end of your five academic years of qualifying teaching service”
Not all student loans used to get teaching credentials qualify, though there may be other federal student loan forgiveness programs offered that do not target veterans or teachers, but include them as eligible applicants. One such program is the Perkins Loan Forgiveness option:
- Only good for those with Federal Perkins Loans
- Teaching specialty requirements (STEM, languages, etc.) may apply
- School employment requirements apply (low income schools, etc.)
- Time-based student loan requirements for teachers–a certain percentage of your loan is forgiven or cancelled for the first year of service up to five years. The fifth year will see the largest amount forgiven, and student loan interest each year is also forgiven
- Private school teachers can qualify if the school has established its nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and meets other requirements
The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant is another national option that provides financial assistance for those who agree to teach a “highly needed subject” in targeted areas with a shortage of “specific subject teachers in an elementary or secondary school.” Such grants have in the past been offered up to $4,000 a year while the applicant is attending school. According to TEACH literature, while the student is teaching, they are paid “just as you would without a TEACH Grant.”
Eligible teaching subject areas include:
- Bilingual education
- English language acquisition
- Foreign language
- Reading specialist
- Special education
- Any other high-need field identified by a government agency
As a condition of being accepted as a TEACH Grant awardee, you agree to teach for at least four years in an approved school.
Private Organizations, NonProfits
Teach for America is a private, non-profit organization offering cash awards for prior student loans, and/or future education expenses for those who are willing to commit to teaching in targeted public schools in rural areas and urban areas for at least two years.
This is not a grant or scholarship program per se–you join Teach For America and agree to attend teacher training, teach in targeted schools, and there may be specific subject matter required. Teach For America is only one private non-profit offering assistance for veterans who want to become teachers. Every organization is different and many will not require you “join” the way Teach For America does–qualifications for each program will vary.
Some private funding options aren’t specifically for the initial teacher education needed, but for continuing education or additional training. Some are very regional in nature and may be administered via a state government (see below) or a private agency.
One such very localized grant offered to teachers in the state of Florida provides funds to offset the costs of “Travel Related to Career-Enrichment Opportunities.” Others may provide funds to help existing teachers (veterans or not) get research money to provide books and other resources for their classrooms.
All of these can help young teachers trying to balance the costs of buying supplies out-of-pocket (a very common problem for new teachers) and offset the early costs of completing a school program, starting to repay student loans where applicable, etc.
There are grant-watch style clearinghouse websites that provide information on grants like these–be sure to Google the phrase “Grants for Teachers” and you will find websites like GrantWatch, which offers national listings for teaching grants and much more.
Some school districts offer a build-it-yourself program offering non-GI Bill financial assistance to veteran students who agree to teach in specified school districts after successful completion of a teacher program.
There are state-level certification fee waivers that apply to veterans in some states, in-state tuition benefits, and for certain qualifying disabled veterans with VA-rated disabilities there may be waivers for testing, tuition, or other expenses to become a teacher. Where do you find all this information?
It is usually found on the state-level Department of Veterans Affairs, Division of Veterans Affairs, or similarly named official site. You can Google search terms like “Veteran state scholarship,” “Indiana State veterans tuition assistance,” “Troops To Teachers state programs,” etc.
Some states also have separate boards to help; one good example is the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which offers a variety of grants for higher education. The Illinois Veterans Grant is another option for veterans on the state level that can help you get your teaching certificate while minimizing your reliance on the GI Bill.
Another good example is the official site of the State of Connecticut, which informs that, “Veterans may attend Connecticut Public Colleges and Universities tuition free.” The site advises that state law requires tuition waivers “for qualified veterans attending the University of Connecticut, Connecticut State Universities and the 12 Community-Technical Colleges”.
This is not a program that is aimed specifically at veterans who want to become teachers, but it’s easy to see how such a state plan can dramatically reduce education expenses for those who do.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News