As a teacher in the United States, there may be options available to you to have your student loans partially or fully forgiven. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program is a program available to public servants which forgives certain student loans after 120 qualifying payments, but do teachers qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
Teachers do qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, with some exceptions. That being said, there are additional forgiveness programs that teachers also may qualify for in addition to Public Service Loan Forgiveness including the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program as well as Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation.
- What Is Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)?
- Who Qualifies for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
- How Do I Apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
- What Is Teacher Loan Forgiveness?
- What Is the Difference Between Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
- Can You Use Both Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness?
- What Are the Downsides of Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
- What Is the Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation?
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What Is Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)?
Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a loan forgiveness program through the U.S. Department of Education which forgives the loans of “U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or not-for-profit organization” full-time employees after they make 120 qualifying monthly payments. If you work full-time for a qualifying employer and make 120 qualifying monthly payments, you will have the remainder of your Direct Loans forgiven.
Who Qualifies for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
In order to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you must be employed full-time by one of the following employers:
- U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government
- Not-for-profit organization that is tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
You must also:
- Have Direct federal student loans
- Repay your loans under a qualifying payment plan
- Make 120 qualifying monthly payments
Teachers who work at public schools, not-for-profit charter schools, most private elementary and secondary schools, most colleges and universities, early childhood centers or Head Start programs, librarians, other school based services, social workers, and other community and social service specialists all would qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
If you have questions about whether your employer qualifies as an eligible employer, you should speak with your Human Resources department at your employer or use the IRS’s searchable database of tax-exempt organizations.
How Do I Apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
Your loan servicer or the Federal Student Aid website can provide you with applicable forms needed to verify your employment. The Federal Student Aid website (studentaid.gov) has a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Help Tool which can help you navigate this program and your specific qualifications.
You apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness after you have completed 120 qualifying payments but can verify your employment at any time during that period. It is recommended that you submit verification to your loan servicer if you change employers or want to ensure that you are making qualifying payments.
What Is Teacher Loan Forgiveness?
Teacher Loan Forgiveness is another federal student loan forgiveness program available to teachers and may be a better option for some educators. The Teacher Loan Forgiveness program may forgive up to $17,500 of Direct Loans after five consecutive academic years teaching full-time in a qualifying low-income elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agencies.
There are some more specific qualifications for this type of forgiveness and it is important to know if the school you are teaching at qualifies and that you are meeting all other requirements. The basic qualifications are:
- You were a teacher at a qualifying school for 5 consecutive academic years
- Check out the Teacher Cancellation Low Income (TCLI) Directory on studentaid.gov to see if your school qualifies
- You are considered a “highly qualified teacher” which means you:
- Have a bachelor’s degree
- Are a fully certified teacher in your state
- You have not had any requirements waived on an “emergency, temporary, or provisional basis”
Once you are determined to meet all of the qualifications, you can receive:
- $17,500 if you were a mathematics or science teacher at the secondary level or a special education teacher
- $5,000 for all other teachers
What Is the Difference Between Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
The major difference between Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness is the amount of your loans forgiven. With Teacher Loan Forgiveness, you will only receive the amount you qualify for, either $17,500 or $5,000 depending on what you taught. With Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you will get the entire remainder of what is left of your loans forgiven after making 120 qualifying payments.
Another difference is the time commitment to receive the loan forgiveness. With the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, you must commit to 5 consecutive years of teaching. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program requires at least a 10 year commitment but is more flexible with the type of position that qualifies.
Both programs have requirements for what employers qualify for these programs.
Can You Use Both Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness?
Yes, but unfortunately not at the same time. If you receive Teacher Loan Forgiveness for your five qualifying years of teaching, those five years do not count towards your 120 qualifying payments for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
What Are the Downsides of Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
Student loan forgiveness sounds pretty good and can provide a lot of relief to borrowers, but there are some downsides to each of these programs. Some downsides and challenges you should be aware of are:
- The large amount of paperwork required to verify employment
- The long waits for paperwork to be reviewed and verified
- The very specific requirements for qualifying employers with the verified low-income schools always changing
- Requirements for qualifying payments being made under very specific payment plans
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness only forgiving a small amount for the majority for teachers who do not qualify for the $17,500 amount
- You may pay off your loans within the minimum 10 years of payments required for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
What Is the Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation?
The Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation is only available to those teachers who have Federal Perkins Loans. Unlike the other programs, this program will give you partial cancellation for each year you teach. To qualify for this cancellation, you must:
- Teach in a low-income school, or
- Serve as a special education teacher for students with disabilities, or
- Provide services as a licensed practitioner in your state to students with disabilities such as speech and language, audiology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling services, or
- Teach math, science, foreign languages, or bilingual education, or other fields listed as having a shortage in your state.
After each qualifying year of teaching, you will get the following amount of cancellation:
- Years 1 and 2, 15% cancellation each year
- Years 3 and 4, 20% cancellation each year
- Year 5, 30% cancellation
There are multiple programs for loan forgiveness and cancellation available to teachers in the United States with federal student loans, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness. If you believe you qualify for one of these programs, you should consult your loan servicer and/or the studentaid.gov website for additional information including qualifying factors and application steps.