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I’m a Teacher. How Can I Get My Federal Stafford Student Loans Forgiven? – Aimie

Aimie

“Hi Steve,

I graduated from ORU in 2007 with 72k in school debt. I have been doing volunteer work for a year and have now been married and moved to NYC. I am working in a private Christian school as a teacher for the 3rd and 4th grades making a salary of 20k. I have been putting a 100% of my salary towards my school loans since I began working 3 months ago. I have not made a dent in my premium.

Are there any programs that can help me pay off my debt or even help me make a sizable dent in the premium? Are there any places I can get a better rate on my loan as my Federal Stafford loan charges me 7% interest?

Aimie”

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The Answer

 

Dear Aimie,

It sounds like you might be eligible for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and that could eliminate a large part of your loan. It’s worth check out.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program – FFEL and Direct Loan Programs

To qualify for up to $5,000 loan forgiveness under this program you must not have had an outstanding balance on a FFEL or Direct Loan program loan as of October 1, 1998. To qualify for the increased amount of loan forgiveness up to $17,500 available for certain mathematics, science, and special education teachers, you must not have had an outstanding balance on a FFEL or Direct Loan program loan as of October 1, 1998, or on the date that you obtained a FFEL or Direct Loan program loan after October 1, 1998.

Although a summary of the new requirements is provided below, for complete information about this program, contact the holder of your loan.

To qualify, you must have been employed as a full-time teacher for five consecutive complete academic years in an elementary or secondary school that has been designated as a “low-income” school by the U.S. Department of Education.

Additionally:

  • At least one of the five qualifying years of teaching must have occurred after the 1997-98 academic year.
  • The loan must have been made before the end of the fifth year of qualifying teaching.
  • The elementary or secondary school must be public or private nonprofit.
  • A defaulted loan cannot be cancelled for teacher service unless you’ve made satisfactory repayment arrangements with the holder of the loan.

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. Following is the list of low-income schools by year, up to the most recent year available:


Low-Income School Search

If your five consecutive complete years of qualifying teaching service began before October 30, 2004:

—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 (for the definition of a highly qualified teacher, click here); or
  • a highly qualified special education teacher whose primary responsibility was to provide special education to children with disabilities, and you were teaching 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 were teaching.

If your five consecutive complete years of qualifying teaching service began on or after October 30, 2004:

—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 were teaching 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 were teaching.

Interruptions in your school’s low-income designation

Your school does not have to be designated a low-income school in each of the five consecutive years. If you are teaching at a school listed as a low-income school for at least one year during your employment, your subsequent years of service at that school can be counted in the five consecutive years, even if the school is not designated as a low-income school in every subsequent year. For example, if you began teaching at a secondary school in the 1994-95 academic year, and it was designated as a low-income school in 1996-97, you may count your five consecutive years of service at that school starting with the 1996-97 academic year, even if the school is not designated as a low-income school in subsequent years.

Interruptions in teaching service

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

  1. you completed at least one-half of the academic year; and
  2. your employer considers you to have fulfilled your contract requirements for the academic year for the purposes of salary increases, tenure, and retirement; and
  3. you were unable to complete the academic year because:
  • you returned to school, on at least a half-time basis, to pursue an area of study directly related to the performance of the teaching service described above; or
  • you had a condition that is 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 U.S. Armed Forces.**

Note that the period of postsecondary education, or an absence due to a condition covered under the FMLA, or active duty military service, including the time needed for you to resume teaching no later than the beginning of the next regularly scheduled academic year, does not constitute a break in the required five consecutive complete years of qualifying teaching service.

A borrower may not receive loan forgiveness for qualifying teaching service if the borrower receives an Americorps benefit for the same teaching service. For more information on AmeriCorps, click here.

How to apply

You apply for teacher loan cancellation after you have completed the five-year teaching requirement. Click here to print a copy of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application. Once you have completed the application, give it to the Chief Administrative Officer at your school to complete the certification section. That individual must certify that you have taught full-time for five consecutive years at that school, and

  • if you’re teaching in an elementary school, that you have knowledge of—or teaching skills in—reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the elementary curriculum;
  • if you’re teaching in a secondary school, that you are teaching in a subject area relevant to your academic major.

When your application is complete, submit it to your lender or loan servicing agency for processing.

Postponing repayment while under consideration for cancellation

You can get forbearance for up to 60 days while you’re completing the loan discharge application which includes the time it takes for the lender and guarantor to review it.

The loan holder or guaranty agency must notify you within 135 days of their decision on your application. If your application is approved, new repayment terms based on any remaining loan balances will be provided to you. The lender may cancel up to $17,500 of the aggregate loan amount that is outstanding after you’ve finished your fifth year of teaching. (The aggregate loan amount includes both principal and interest.) However, the lender cannot refund the payments you made before you completed the fifth year of teaching service.

Your lender can grant forbearance for each year of your qualifying teaching service if the expected cancellation amount will satisfy the anticipated remaining outstanding balance on the loan at the time of the expected cancellation. Unless you give your lender or loan servicing agency other instructions, your unsubsidized Stafford Loan balance will be cancelled first, followed by any outstanding subsidized Stafford Loan balance, and then any eligible outstanding Consolidation Loan balance. The lender may cancel only the outstanding portion of the Consolidation Loan that was used to repay subsidized or unsubsidized Stafford Loans that qualified for loan forgiveness.

Definitions:

  • “Academic year” means one complete school year at the same school, or two complete and consecutive half years at different schools, or two complete and consecutive half years from different school years (at either the same school or different schools). Half years exclude summer sessions and generally fall within a 12-month period. For schools that have a year-round program of instruction, 9 months is considered an academic year.
  • “Elementary school” or “secondary school” means a public or nonprofit private school that provides elementary education or secondary education as determined by state law (or by the U.S. Department of Education if the school is not in a state).
  • “Full-time employment as a teacher” is determined by the state’s standard. For a borrower teaching in more than one school, the determination of full time is based on the combination of all qualifying employment.
  • “Teacher” means a person who provides direct classroom teaching or classroom-type teaching in a non-classroom setting, including Special Education teachers.
  • To be a highly qualified teacher a public elementary or secondary school teacher must:

  1. 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
  2. have not had certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis.


In addition

An elementary school teacher who is new to the profession is considered highly qualified if s/he also:

  1. holds at least a bachelor’s degree; and
  2. 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:

  1. holds at least a bachelor’s degree, and
  2. 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, coursework 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:

  1. holds at least a bachelor’s degree; and
  2. meets the applicable standards of an elementary, middle, or secondary school teacher who is new to the profession; or
  3. 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 knowledgeand 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.



Download a summary of this information

You can download and print out information in a convenient trifold Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program for Teachers Portable Document Format (PDF), which requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader. (You can download the Reader for free at the Adobe Web site.) The color PDF version works best if printed as a two-sided sheet and then folded into a brochure. This brochure can be duplicated but not sold.

Community service loan forgiveness

This provision excludes from income any student loan amounts forgiven by non-profit, tax-exempt charitable or educational institutions for borrowers who take community service jobs that address unmet community needs. For example, a recent graduate who takes a low-paying job in a rural school will not owe any additional income tax if, in recognition of this service, his or her college or another charity forgives a loan it made to him or her to help pay her college costs. This provision applies to loans forgiven after August 5, 1997.


*A serious health condition covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) (19 U.S.C. 2654) “Serious health condition” includes an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves.

  • inpatient care (i.e., an overnight stay) in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical-care facility. This includes any period of incapacity (defined to mean the inability to work, attend school, or perform other regular daily activities; includes pregnancy).
  • continuing treatment by (or under the supervision of) a health care provider for a period of incapacity (see above). It also includes a chronic or long-term health condition that is incurable or so serious that, if not treated, would likely result in a period of incapacity of more than three calendar days. Includes prenatal care.

**Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, and Coast Guard Reserve

Last updated/reviewed September 11, 2008 Source

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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
  • Noleotr

    Just as the person in the comment above who graduated in 1997, she won’t qualify and neither do I. You can’t have a loan balance before 1998!!! so STUPID!!!!! It seems discriminating. I graduated in 1999 and just completed 10 years of teaching and tried to apply, they denied my application. They don’t want to give away any money!!

  • Nbernal220

    I’m getting a master in administration. Would this qualify for a teacher forgiveness loan? I’ve been teaching for 16 years at a school that qualifies as low-income.

  • Nbernal220

    I’m getting a master in administration. Would this qualify for a teacher forgiveness loan? I’ve been teaching for 16 years at a school that qualifies as low-income.

  • Ry

    I am currently working at an AEP school and I make less than 20k per year. I owe over 40k in student loans as I went to school for my field of study and then went back to school to become a teacher with a Masters’ now in Middle-Secondary Education. I am now going on my 3rd year of teaching and I have not seen my principle drop. I look keep looking at my loans and the projected payoff dates are from 2019-2023; I don’t think I’ll be able to afford to keep this up… Is there anything I can do or must I wait for that 5th year if I can survive that long???

  • Ry

    I am currently working at an AEP school and I make less than 20k per year. I owe over 40k in student loans as I went to school for my field of study and then went back to school to become a teacher with a Masters’ now in Middle-Secondary Education. I am now going on my 3rd year of teaching and I have not seen my principle drop. I look keep looking at my loans and the projected payoff dates are from 2019-2023; I don’t think I’ll be able to afford to keep this up… Is there anything I can do or must I wait for that 5th year if I can survive that long???

  • Tracy

    I find it unfair of the dates the government came up with. My loans are from 1989 to 1996, when I graduated. I consolidated all of mine at some point. I teach in low income school district for 7 years now or so. I think all teachers should get part of their loan forgiven. I just do not understand these dates!!! Makes me upset and find it unfair.

    • Amanda

      Tracy,

      I feel as you do. I attended school from 1989-1994, and graduated undergrad in 1994 with my BS in Secondary Education Social Studies, and then returned two years later for Special Education certification; which was awarded in May 1998. I am considered highly qualified, and have been teaching in a urban district for 10 years, and meet all of the qualifications for teacher loan forgiveness, with the exception of the qualifying date. All I owe is $17,000. For all of “us” teachers who received their degrees prior to this date, it is biased and completely unfair! Teachers receive lower pay than other professionals with similar degrees! All teachers should have some of their loans forgiven…..Wall Street and the banks were bailed out…..why can’t teachers be assisted!?!?!

      • luna

        I totally agree with you! What the heck is up with these bogus dates? Heck, did they throw a bunch into a hat and pulled out one and said that will be the date? I just called Direct Loans to ask and the customer service guy said that that was the date they decided on. Who and why? It is totally unfair and stupid. It seems stupid. Discriminative perhaps? What is the reason why someone who went to school and got a degree before 1998 cannot participate in the forgiveness program?!!! No Child Left Behind?… yeah, what a joke… Just leave all the teachers behind!!!

    • Noleotr

       me too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We should start a petition and maybe they will change the dates!!!

  • Stephanie

    Regarding Teacher Loan Forgiveness: I was told the date of my consolidation would be used and I would be eligible for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. So here I am about to close in on my 5th year teaching in a low-income school, and was told I am ineligible because I have one loan for $2200 that was dated 10/22/97 in the consolidation. Meanwhile, the remainder of my $20,000 in loans was after the date, but because I consolidated I am INELIGIBLE! I feel like such a fool especially since I was sent mail every other day to consolidate my loans and I obviously did. What a mistake that was! So this is just a warning for those who consolidate – rules may come out one day providing for forgiveness and you may not qualify if part of your loan is an ineligible date.

    • Noleotr

       Same here, my consolidation date was in 2000, but if you look at the eligibility you can’t have a balance before or ON the day you took out a direct loan, which covers the consolidation loan. They are sneaky and they SUCK!!

  • john

    I graduated in 1999 and am still working on my student loan. My principal has not gone down hardly at all with my loan. I think I have paid $19,500 in interest on a $23,000 loan and have been doing this sence 2000. I need help. It is a consolidated loan. Can I refinance my student loan? With who and how? Also, is there or would there be any loan forgiveness that I could apply for? I work have worked in a low ses-school district for the last 11 years. Have tried to get some forgiveness with the loan holder but always get shut down saying I don’t qualify because of the time line. Please help. Do I qualify for the new Obama teacher loan forgiveness plan?? where would I find out that info?? thanks a bunch I hope that you can help me change/ get this monkey off my back. thanks again John

    • http://GetOutOfDebt.org Steve Rhode

      John,

      Are these private student loans or government backed student loans?

      Steve

  • http://www.studentloanjubilee.blogspot.com Jib

    The programs that you mentioned are good, but still 55k short of her debt, and they require 5-10 years of service.

    The law needs to be changed that a student loan can only last for maximum of 7 years or so. This would limit funding, and while temporarily limiting access to colleges, the colleges would quickly be forced to lower their prices.

    Jibs last blog post..Student Lenders Prey on African-Americans

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