Teaching doesn’t always pay that well — but depending on how you borrowed, where you live and what you teach, you might be eligible for student loan forgiveness.
Here’s everything you need to know about student loan forgiveness for teachers. We hope that our guide will lead you to a program that will lead you to a debt-free life.
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Federal student loan forgiveness for teachers
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Best for: Teachers who are on an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan, don’t qualify for Teacher Loan Forgiveness (see below) and don’t work at a low-income school
How much it’s worth: 100% of your federal Direct loan balance after 10 years of repayment
How long it takes: 120 qualified payments (which takes 10 years)
- Must work full time for an eligible employer (federal, state, local or tribal government organization or eligible not-for-profit organizations)
- Must make 120 qualifying federal student loan payments
- Stafford and Perkins loans must be consolidated before they qualify
- Must not be in default
- Must be on an eligible repayment plan (Standard Repayment Plan for Direct Consolidation, Graduated Repayment Plan and the Extended Repayment Plan do not qualify)
What to keep in mind: Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) isn’t just for teachers — rather, anyone with Direct loans who works in the government or nonprofit sector could qualify. After 120 eligible payments, your remaining Direct loan balance will be forgiven.
PSLF benefits borrowers on an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan more so than those on the 10-year standard repayment plan. That’s because on the standard plan, you’d have nothing left to forgive after 120 eligible payments (if you made all your payments on time and in full).
Only monthly payments paid in full and made while working with an eligible employer count toward PSLF. On the plus side, you don’t need to pay these consecutively, but you should recertify every year or when you switch employers.
Note also that any payments not made during the 2020-23 COVID-19 payment pause may still count toward your PSLF total. Speak to your student loan servicer to find out more.
Where to apply: Studentaid.gov’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) tool
Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF)
Best for: Teachers who aren’t working towards PSLF and have a small to moderate amount of Direct or Stafford student loan debt
How much it’s worth: Up to $17,500
How long it takes: Five consecutive years
- Teach five complete and consecutive years in a low-income school
- Must be considered “highly qualified,” usually meaning you hold a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate
- Must have taught at least one year after the 1997-98 school year
- Loans eligible for forgiveness must have been taken out before the end of the borrowers’ five consecutive years of service
- Must not be in default
- Must have no outstanding student loans originated prior to Oct. 1, 1998
What to keep in mind: The Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF) program offers $17,500 in student loan forgiveness for those that teach special education, as well as secondary math or science. All other full-time teachers can qualify for up to $5,000 in forgiveness.
Teachers must work for five full, consecutive school years before they qualify, and must teach in a low-income school. Check out the Teacher Cancellation Low Income (TCLI) Directory to see if your school qualifies.
Where to apply: Fill out the TLF application after five years of qualifying employment and turn it in to your loan servicer
Perkins loan cancellation for teachers
Best for: Eligible teachers with outstanding Perkins loans
How much it’s worth: Up to 100% of the borrower’s Perkins loan balance
How long it takes: Five years for 100% forgiveness
Requirements (must meet at least one, not all):
- Teach in a low-income public or nonprofit elementary or secondary school
- Teach math, science, foreign languages, bilingual education or special education
- Teach in a field that has a shortage of qualified teachers in your state
What to keep in mind: If you demonstrated an extreme financial need, you may have qualified for and taken out a federal Perkins loan (at least until 2017, the year the Perkins loan program ended). Perkins loans have a few perks, including cancellation options for teachers, early childhood educators and other professions.
Perkins loan cancellation happens incrementally. After each full year of teaching at an eligible school or teaching an eligible subject, a percentage of your balance will be forgiven:
- First year: 15%
- Second year: 15%
- Third year: 20%
- Fourth year: 20%
- Fifth year: 30%
Where to apply: Contact the school that provided your Perkins loan (or its servicer) for forms and instructions.
Are you an aspiring teacher?
If you’re thinking about (or in the process of) getting your teaching certificate, you should check out the TEACH grant. If you agree to work in a low-income school district for four years or more, you may get up to $4,000 a year in grant money to help fund your education.
Depending on where you live, you might also be eligible for a state-funded grant. Unlike loans, you won’t need to repay grants (as long as you fulfill any employment agreements tied to the grant). Speak to your college’s financial aid office or the head of your education department to learn what could be available to you.
Combining student loan forgiveness programs
Can you sign up for multiple loan forgiveness programs for teachers? Yes. Well, kind of — it depends on timing.
If you qualify for both PSLF and TLF, you can’t apply payments (or employment periods) to both programs at once. In other words, if you work five years at an eligible school and get a portion of your loan balance forgiven through TLF, you can’t apply the payments you made during those five years toward PSLF.
Still, some borrowers with high loan amounts can get both TLF and PSLF — though it will take 15 years. Let’s say that you earn $5,000 in forgiveness through TLF. If you’re eligible, you could make 120 eligible payments afterwards and earn PSLF in another 10 years.
Note that in the example above, you could still get total forgiveness in 10 years if you start with PSLF instead.
In addition, Perkins loan borrowers might be considering consolidating them for PSLF. However, this may not be the best choice for everyone. Consolidated Perkins loans aren’t eligible for Perkins loans cancellation. So if you’re pursuing Perkins loan cancellation and PSLF for your Direct loans, you need to keep these loans separate to get the benefit of both programs.
Alternatives to student loan forgiveness
Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans
The bad news: Income-driven repayment plans generally take longer than other loan forgiveness programs for teachers. But the good news is that if you have a remaining balance after completing your income-driven repayment plan, it’ll be forgiven.
IDRs are also integral to fully take advantage of PSLF. IDRs can drastically reduce your required monthly student loan payment (potentially making it easier to make eligible PSLF payments). They can also help ensure you have a remaining balance to forgive after your repayment term.
However, keep in mind that if you’re on an IDR, you might pay more interest over the life of your loan than if you paid over 10 years on the Standard Repayment Plan.
Student loan refinancing
Unfortunately, private student loan forgiveness is very rare, even for teachers. But if you’re struggling to pay your private student loans (either due to high interest rates or because you’re juggling multiple private student loan bills), you may want to consider refinancing.
If your credit is better now than it was when you initially took out your private student loan (or if you have a creditworthy cosigner), you might get a lower interest rate by refinancing. See what rates you could qualify for from our top refinance lenders to see if this path is right for you.
It’s possible to refinance federal student loans to convert them into private ones — but we don’t recommend it. Federal student loans come with borrower benefits that aren’t present on most private loans, including income-driven repayment plans, forbearance and forgiveness.
State programs that offer student loan forgiveness for teachers
Your state might offer programs that forgive student loans for teachers. Click the interactive map below to see what could be available to you.
Alabama Math and Science Teacher Education Program
Alabama math and science teachers could get up to $5,000 per year to pay back their federal student loans through the Alabama Math and Science Teacher Education Program. Those that work in a district experiencing a shortage of science and math teachers could get $2,500 per year on top of that.
Arizona Teachers Academy
Future teachers attending Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, the University of Arizona or select community colleges can get free tuition through the Arizona Teachers Academy. Note that you’ll need to enter an agreement to teach in an Arizona public school after graduation to qualify.
Arizona Student Loan Program
The Arizona Student Loan Program provides forgivable loans to eligible teaching students if they attend a participating private college in Arizona.
State Teacher Education Program
Arkansas’ State Teacher Education Program provides up to $6,000 per year to assist educators with repaying their federal student loans. Eligible individuals must teach a subject or in a location experiencing a teacher shortage.
Colorado Educator Loan Forgiveness Program
Teachers in rural Colorado (or those teaching subjects with a teacher shortage) could get $5,000 to pay down their federal and private student loans from the Colorado Educator Loan Forgiveness Program. Teachers can reapply each year, though the program is currently only funded through 2026.
Minority Teacher Incentive Program
African American, Latino, Asian American and Native American teachers can receive up to $2,500 a year in loan stipends through the Minority Teacher Incentive Program, but only if they teach in a public Connecticut elementary or secondary school within 16 months of graduating. You must be a college junior or senior and be nominated by the dean of your university’s education program to be eligible.
High Needs Educator Student Loan Repayment Program
Teachers in high-needs public schools, or those who teach high-needs subjects, can get up to $2,000 a year to pay off eligible student loans through the High Needs Educator Student Loan Repayment Program.
Rural and Underserved Educator Incentive Program
The Rural and Underserved Educator Incentive Program will directly repay outstanding federal student loans for teachers in rural and economically-disadvantaged areas. Teachers who qualify can get $1,500 during their first year in the program, $2,500 in their second year, $3,500 in their third year and $4,500 in their fourth and final year.
Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program
Teachers that have had a portion of their federal loans forgiven by the government could get up to $5,000 in additional loan forgiveness through the Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program. Teachers need to have taught at least five years in an eligible low-income school to qualify.
Teach Iowa Scholars Program
The Teach Iowa Scholars Program awards teachers up to $4,000 a year (for a maximum of five years) for teaching in schools located in designated shortage areas. Applicants must also have graduated in the top 25% of their class.
Rural Opportunity Zone Incentive Program
If you’re willing to move to certain parts of Kansas, the state could give you up to $15,000 to repay your student loans (over the course of five years) through the Rural Opportunity Zone Incentive Program.
Educators for Maine Program
High school seniors, undergraduate and graduate students pursuing teaching certificates could get a renewable loan through the Educators for Maine Program. Undergraduates can get $5,000, while graduate students are eligible for $4,000. As long as the student teaches in an underserved Maine area after graduation, the loans are forgiven.
Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program
If you’re a teacher in an underserved or low-income community in Maryland, you could receive up to $10,000 a year (for up to three years) to repay your student loans through the Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program.
The Nancy Grasmick Teacher Award
The Nancy Grasmick Teacher Award helps eligible, high-performing teachers repay their student loans if they’ve taught in Maryland for the past two years. Teachers must meet the same requirements as the Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program, plus teach in the STEM field or in a school where at least 75% of students qualify for the free meal program.
Minnesota Teacher Shortage Student Loan Repayment Program
Teachers who work in rural districts, in a license shortage field or belong to an underrepresented minority group might qualify for the Minnesota Teacher Shortage Student Loan Repayment Program. This program is based on financial need and those that are chosen can get up to $1,000 in repayment assistance, and can receive the award up to five times.
Winter-Reed Teacher Loan Repayment Program
Mississippi teachers in their first year can apply for the Winter-Reed Teacher Loan Repayment Program. The program awards $1,500 to those in non-shortage areas and $4,000 to teachers in shortage areas. The award is renewable for up to three years, with each year granting more money than the next.
Quality Educator Loan Assistance Program
Newly-hired teachers at impacted schools in Montana could qualify for the Quality Educator Loan Assistance Program. Eligible teachers can get up to $3,000 of loan repayment in their first year of teaching, up to $4,000 in their second and up to $5,000 in their third. At that point, the program ends but their school district can opt to pay a final $5,000 loan repayment.
National Board Teacher Stipend Program
The National Board Teacher Stipend Program awards Montana teachers with up to $2,000 if they have a certificate from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).
Attracting Excellence to Teaching Program
The Attracting Excellence to Teaching Program provides forgivable loans to students enrolled in teaching programs. Each loan is $3,000, and students can receive them for up to five consecutive years. The loans are eligible for forgiveness after the borrower teaches for at least two years in Nebraska.
New Jersey Teacher Loan Redemption Program
New Jersey teachers in a high-need field and at eligible schools could get up to $20,000 of their student loans paid through the New Jersey Teacher Loan Redemption Program. This program is only open to teachers hired on or after Jan. 18, 2022.
Teacher Loan Repayment Program
If you teach in certain designated positions (bilingual education, special education and mathematics, among others) in a public school, you could receive aid through the Teacher Loan Repayment Program. Awards are dependent on the school’s needs for your position and your total amount of debt.
Teachers of Tomorrow Program
The New York State Education Department designed the Teachers of Tomorrow Program to recruit and retain teachers in the schools with the largest need. Eligible teachers can receive up to $3,400 per year for four years.
New York State Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
The New York State Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program gives up to $5,000 for student loan repayment to eligible teachers in areas experiencing a teacher shortage or who teach certain subjects. This program is renewable for four years, granting recipients up to $20,000 in student loan repayment.
Forgivable Education Loans for Service Program
North Carolina college students can get up to $20,000 through the Forgivable Education Loans for Service Program, as long as they teach certain grade-levels or subject matters. Each loan is forgiven after working for one year as a teacher, and funds are available to part-time students as well as full time.
Teacher Shortage Employment Incentive Program
If you teach math or science in Oklahoma, you could be eligible for reimbursement for certain education-related expenses or a cash benefit by applying to the Teacher Shortage Employment Incentive Program. The value of the repayment assistance program varies year to year.
Educator of Color Loan Forgiveness Program
Newly-hired Asian, Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, biracial and multiracial teachers in Rhode Island could get up to $25,000 of student loan repayment through the Educator of Color Loan Forgiveness Program. Only teachers with at least $5,000 of student debt are eligible.
South Carolina Teachers and Career Changers Loan Program
The South Carolina Teachers and Career Changes Loan Program provides student loans that will be completely forgiven, as long as you teach in South Carolina long enough.
Students enrolled in an education program can borrow up to $27,500 over four years. Once you graduate, a percentage of your loan will be given for each year that you teach, as long as you’re in an area or subject experiencing a shortage. This percentage goes up if you teach a critical need subject and in an area experiencing a teacher shortage.
Minority Teaching Fellows Program
Minority college juniors, seniors and graduate students pursuing teaching certification can get up to $5,000 per year from the Minority Teaching Fellows Program. While this award is more of a grant than it is student loan forgiveness, it could still prove helpful for those that qualify.
Texas Loan Repayment Assistance Program
The Texas Loan Repayment Assistance Program was designed to recruit and retain teachers in areas that have a shortage of educators. Eligible individuals can receive up to $2,500 for up to five years towards their federal loans.
Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program
Vermonters working in early childhood education could get up to $4,000 per year to help pay off their student loans through the Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program. To be eligible, educators need to make $60,000 or less a year, hold a qualifying degree and work at least 30 hours per week, among other requirements.
Virginia Teaching Scholarship Loan Program
The Virginia Teaching Scholarship Loan Program (VTSLP) offers up to $10,000 per academic year to education students studying in the commonwealth of Virginia who commit to a teaching career in critical shortage teaching areas like special education and English as a Second Language (ESL).
These awards are contingent on teaching in Virginia schools for at least two years after graduation. If the teacher fails to meet their employment obligation, they must pay back their loan.
Washington State Educator Workforce Program
If you sign an agreement to work in a shortage area, prospective teachers in Washington can get a reward of up to $8,000 per year towards their education. The Washington State Educator Workforce Program is a conditional scholarship akin to a forgivable loan. As long as you fulfill your employment obligation after graduating, you don’t have to repay your reward.
Underwood-Smith Teacher Loan Assistance Program
The Underwood-Smith Teacher Loan Assistance Program pays up to $3,000 annually towards eligible borrowers’ federal student loans, as long as they teach math, science, special education or elementary education, or serve as a counselor, in a high-need West Virginia school district.
Wisconsin Teacher Loan Program
Eligible college sophomores, juniors and seniors can get up to $10,000 per year in forgivable loans through the Wisconsin Teacher Loan Program. After graduating, loan recipients won’t have to repay what they borrowed as long as they fulfill the program’s employment requirements, such as teaching a high-demand subject in Milwaukee or a designated rural area.
Wisconsin Minority Teacher Loan Program
The Wisconsin Minority Teacher Loan Program is similar to the Wisconsin Teacher Loan Program but is aimed at Black, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian American, Hispanic and biracial college students studying to be teachers. However, unlike the Wisconsin Teacher Loan Program, recipients must also work in a district with a minority student population of at least 40%.