While the demand for qualified teachers is higher than ever, earning an education degree takes a lot of time and hard work. Along with a rigorous curriculum and the often stressful duties of teaching, educators must also deal with the challenges of paying for their degrees. Inside Higher Ed reports that tuition at public four-year colleges rose an average of 3.2% annually from 2007-2017. Luckily, education's status as a vital profession means many scholarships and awards target learners pursuing teaching degrees specifically.
the federal government offers an assortment of funding options for teachers who commit to serving at low-income schools and/or teaching high-need subjects
Both aspiring and current teachers can access a wide selection of funding options, in the form of student teaching scholarships and opportunities for student loan forgiveness. For example, the federal government offers an assortment of funding options for teachers who commit to serving at low-income schools and/or teaching high-need subjects. The sheer variety of scholarships, grants, loans, and loan forgiveness options can be overwhelming, but this guide helps break down the different methods that can be used to help fund a teaching degree. In addition to explanations of different funding options, you can also peruse a varied list of scholarships for teaching, including many awards specifically intended for teachers of certain subjects.
Filling Out the FAFSA
The first step to finding teaching scholarships is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which lets you apply for an assortment of federal aid options, including grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. Some private scholarships for teaching programs may also request your FAFSA results to determine if you meet financial need requirements.
The FAFSA typically becomes available on the first of October each year, and you must fill out the form annually to indicate any changes in your financial status. While aid awards vary greatly depending on your income (and, if you're under 24 years of age, your parents' income), most students receive some type of aid based on their answers to this form.
What Information Do You Need for the FAFSA?
Social Security Number
If you don't have a social security number, you can still fill out the FAFSA by providing an Alien Registration number instead. However, undocumented applicants, including DACA students, cannot receive federal aid; these individuals may still qualify to receive aid from their state or college.
Federal Tax Information
Independent adults must provide tax returns, such as IRS 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ forms, while dependent students must provide their parents' tax returns. Married students also need to provide their spouse's tax returns.
Records of Untaxed Income
Untaxed income includes interest income, child support payments received, and veterans noneducation benefits. Dependent students must include these records for their parents.
Information on Assets
Assets include monetary holdings such as investments, stocks and bonds, savings and checking accounts, businesses, and real estate (although not the home you currently live in).
Determining the Cost of Your Teaching Degree
Earning a higher education tends to be expensive, and determining the total cost of your degree on your own may be difficult. Luckily, most colleges offer an estimate of your cost of attendance (COA) to help you understand just how much it will cost to go to school. To determine financial aid packages, schools also calculate your expected family contribution (EFC), which considers income, assets, family size, and other factors. By subtracting the EFC from the COA, a school can determine your level of financial need and your eligibility for financial aid.
Financial aid awards fall into two general categories: need-based and non-need-based. Schools award need-based aid depending on your income level and other financial factors; this type of funding generally offers more generous repayment policies, and some awards -- such as grants -- need not be repaid. Need-based awards include Federal Pell Grants, federal supplemental educational opportunity grants, direct subsidized loans, federal Perkins loans, and federal work-study. Alternatively, non-need-based awards do not take income into account; these typically serve to fill gaps in funding after a school determines your need-based awards. Non-need-based awards include direct unsubsidized loans, federal PLUS loans, and Teacher Education Access for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grants.
Sources of Financial Aid for Teachers
State Financial Aid
Scholarships from Private Organizations
Types of Financial Aid
The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grant program awards student teaching scholarships to future educators who commit to serving in a high-need field after graduation. The federal government offers TEACH grants to undergraduate and graduate students who meet general eligibility requirements for federal aid and attend TEACH-approved education programs. Typically, candidates must meet certain academic standards, such as earning high scores on college admissions tests or holding a GPA above 3.25, although requirements may vary.
The basis of the TEACH grant program is the required service component. Recipients agree to spend at least four academic years teaching in a high-need field at a low-income school after earning their degree. All grant recipients must also meet certain teaching standards. High-need fields include bilingual and English language education, foreign language, math and science, reading specialists, and special education. Teachers can also select other academic areas from the annual Teacher Shortage Area Nationwide Listing, although subject needs differ between states. TEACH grant recipients must work in a high-need field in the state from which they receive their funding, and teachers must complete their service obligation within eight years of earning their degree. If recipients fail to complete their TEACH service obligation, the grant becomes a direct unsubsidized loan that must be repaid in full.
Federal vs. Private Loans: Which Is Better?
While they both serve the same purpose, federal and private loans diverge in several key ways. One distinct difference is their source: federal loans come from the U.S. government, while private loans come from banks, credit unions, and other lenders who typically try to make a profit. As a rule of thumb, federal loans provide students with more flexible and lenient repayment options; these loans may also be eligible for forgiveness under certain circumstances. You may not be able to afford your education without taking on some private loans, but they should be used as a last resort after you've explored all other funding options.
federal loans provide students with more flexible and lenient repayment options; these loans may also be eligible for forgiveness under certain circumstances
Another major distinction between federal and private loans is their repayment options. As a federal borrower, you can utilize income-based repayment plans that allow you to make lower payments depending on your current income level. You may also qualify for deferred payments or forbearance if you experience temporary financial hardship. Some private lenders offer these options, but repayment requirements tend to be much stricter, and some lenders may require you to make payments regardless of your financial circumstances. Federal loans often allow you to forgo payments until you graduate, while many private lenders require you to start making payments right away or after a set period of time, regardless of whether you've graduated.
Loan Forgiveness for Teachers
Along with student teaching scholarships, the federal government offers loan forgiveness programs for teachers who fulfill certain requirements. Like the TEACH grant program, this initiative aids teachers who serve in low-income schools or educational service agencies. Qualifying participants may be eligible for loan forgiveness of up to $17,500 if they teach for five consecutive academic school years at a qualifying institution while fulfilling certain other requirements. Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, as well as subsidized and unsubsidized federal Stafford loans, qualify for forgiveness through the program. However, private loans, PLUS loans, and federal Perkins loans do not qualify.
Applicants for loan forgiveness must fulfill multiple criteria to qualify, including holding a bachelor's degree and a valid state teacher certification that has not been waived on a temporary, provisional, or emergency basis. New elementary and secondary school teachers must also demonstrate competency in their subject area by passing a rigorous state examination. Participants also need to teach at a recognized low-income school or educational service agency, which must be listed in the Department of Education's Annual Directory of Designated Low-Income Schools for Teacher Cancellation Benefits.
To apply for loan forgiveness, teachers must complete the application found on the Department of Education's teacher loan forgiveness page after performing their five years of service at a qualifying school. The chief administrative office of that school must also fill out a certification section on the application, which is then submitted to the loan servicer.