Best Teacher Loan Forgiveness Programs

Jocelyn Segoviano
Jocelyn Segoviano

Jocelyn Segoviano is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance topics. With a passion for helping individuals navigate their financial journeys, she has been providing insightful advice and practical tips to readers for over years.

See author page
Edited by
Daniel Kahn
Daniel Kahn
Daniel is the co-founder and COO at Sparrow. Daniel is responsible for the day-to-day operations of a company, working closely with other members of the executive team to develop and implement strategies to support the growth and success of the company.
Daniel was a 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 lister in the Education category.  Daniel was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina and graduated from Duke University in 2020.
See author page
Reviewed by
Camden Ford
Camden Ford

Camden leads Sparrow’s business operations – everything from product management to business analytics. After graduating Cum Laude from Duke University where he studied Civil Engineering, Camden worked as a Consultant for A.T. Kearney where he worked in their Strategic Operations practice. With a strong background in analytics, Camden strives to deliver data-driven conclusions and insights.

See author page
November 13, 2023

Teaching is a noble profession to go into. Yet, recently, there has been more attention on problems teachers face with some of the biggest being high student debt but low salaries. In fact, the average teacher’s salary is around $54,842 per year. But, the National Education Association reports that nearly half of all educators still owe more than the average salary, with debt averaging at $58,700. Luckily, there are student loan forgiveness programs that you, as a teacher or potential teacher, can take advantage of so you can still follow your career path without worrying too much about the money. 

For the purposes of this article, we are going to define a teacher how Federal Student Aid does. A teacher is someone with a teaching degree who works directly with students or provides classroom-type teaching. Additionally, the teacher loan forgiveness programs discussed in this article are only available for college graduates with federal student loans. If you have private student loans, you’ll want to look into refinancing

Teacher Loan Forgiveness 

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness program allows you to have a portion of your loans forgiven depending on the subject you taught. Full-time secondary-level mathematics or science teachers and special education teachers can get up to $17,500 forgiven. All other subjects can get up to $5,000 forgiven.

To qualify, you must be a highly-qualified teacher who has taught for 5 consecutive school years at a low-income school or educational service agency. To check if your school or education agency is a Designated Low-Income School, check the Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory.

When it comes to your loans, there must not be nor have been any outstanding balance on your Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) as of October 1, 1998 or the date you received your loans after October 1, 1998. Additionally, the loans must have been taken out before your qualifying five years of teaching. 

Who It’s Best For

Teacher Loan Forgiveness is best if you have a low amount of student debt since it forgives a lesser amount compared to other programs. On the bright side, it does require fewer years of qualified teaching service than other forgiveness programs. So, it’ll take less time to get some of your debt forgiven. 

How to Get It

First, fill out the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application. Then, submit it to your loan servicer once you’ve completed your five-year teaching requirement. If you are pursuing forgiveness for multiple loans, you will need to submit a separate application to each of your loan servicers. 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) is another program that helps alleviate student debt for public service workers. The PSLF Program forgives the remaining amount of qualifying Direct Loans as long as you meet the requirements. 

To be eligible for PSLF, you must be a public service worker. A public service worker is defined as a full-time employee for a qualifying U.S. federal, state, or local employer. Employees of a tribal government or a non-profit organization also fall under that definition. Additionally, you must make 120 on-time payments under an income-driven repayment plan. Finally, the payments must have started after October 1, 2007. 

Because this is only available for Direct Loans, you can’t receive forgiveness for other loans such as FFEL or Perkins Loans since they aren’t eligible. But, if you consolidate those loans, you’ll get a Direct Consolidation Loan, which will then make you eligible for PSLF. 

Who It’s Best For

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is best for public service workers with a lot of debt because PSLF forgives the remaining amount of your loans. It’s also great for college students who intend on entering the public service field. 

How to Get It

To receive teacher loan forgiveness through PSLF, you will need to fill out and submit a PSLF form. If you haven’t finished making the 120 qualifying payments, your loans will be transferred to a PSLF servicer. They’ll inform you of the number of qualifying payments you’ve made and you can go from there. However, if you’ve already finished the payments, you may not be transferred over to a PSLF servicer.  

Along with your PSLF form, you’ll need to submit an employer certification form since you have to work for a qualified employer to receive loan forgiveness through this program. Every time you switch employers, you’ll have to redo the employment certification process to recertify that you still qualify.  

Once you’ve finished all your payments, you’re ready to submit the final PSLF form. You will send the final PSLF form to FedLoan Servicing. You can mail it, fax it, or submit it online if they are already your servicer.

Perkins Loan Cancellation 

Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation is a way to get 100% of your Federal Perkins loans canceled as long as you qualify. You’ll qualify if you have served full-time in an elementary school or secondary school as: 

  1. A teacher for low-income students, or
  2. A special education teacher, or
  3. You taught in the field of math, science, foreign language, or bilingual education, or
  4. You taught in a field in which there is a shortage in your state 

The Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation is done in increments over the course of five years. In the first two years, you’ll get 15% of your debt canceled. Then, you’ll get 20% canceled in the next two, and 30% in the last year. The discharge will also include any interest you’d accumulate over the course of those five years. 

Who it’s Best For

Perkins Loan Forgiveness is best for teachers who have Perkins loans and a high amount of debt since this program cancels all of it. 

How to Get It

To apply for the Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation program, reach out to the school that made your loan or their loan servicer. They can give you more instructions on how to move forward with the cancellation. 

Stacking Loan Forgiveness Programs 

Each teacher loan forgiveness program is available for different types of loans. So, if you have multiple loans, you can often combine different forgiveness programs. The trick is to not do them at the same time.

For instance, you can get both Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. But, you’d have to do multiple periods of teaching service. For the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, you’d have to complete five years of qualifying teaching service. Then, you’d have to do another ten years of teaching to qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. 

If you have questions regarding how you can stack loan forgiveness programs, reach out to your federal loan servicer for more information. 

Final Thoughts from the Nest 

These teacher loan forgiveness programs are great options for teachers who want to continue their career without carrying the burden of making student loan payments. Deciding which teacher loan forgiveness program is right for you is a matter of looking at your own situation and seeing which is the best fit. Again, though, these are only available for federal student loans. 
If you’re a teacher with private student loans, you should consider refinancing with Sparrow. We partner with 15+ lenders to help you find the best loans on the market. Fill out the Sparrow application to see what you qualify for with our lenders.

Dive deeper in student loans