Teachers don’t work for the big bucks or the glory – they do it because they want to help educate the next generation. That’s a noble calling, but getting the education necessary to become a teacher is expensive.

The national average starting salary for K-12 teachers is $36,775. That falls far short of the income needed to pay the average newly minted teacher’s student loan payment of $429 a month. In fact, a March 26, 2014 report by the New America Foundation predicts that these teachers won’t be able to earn enough money to afford to pay back their loans.

Thankfully, there are a number of programs available that offer student loan forgiveness for teachers. Conduct yourself properly and you’ll be out of federal student loan debt faster than many graduates headed to law school or medical school.

Getting Federal Perkins Loans Forgiven

Federal Perkins Loans offer some of the best deals in student loans because they come with a fixed interest rate of 5% and no fees whatsoever.

With an annual loan limit of $5,500 for undergraduate students and $8,000 for graduate students, it’s easy to see how a teaching student can rack up a significant Perkins loan debt before graduation.

For educators willing to teach at least one year at a low-income school or in certain subject areas, Federal Teacher Cancellation for Perkins Loans can forgive 15% of your Perkins loan the first year and up to $27,500 wiped out after just five years.

There are strings attached to the program, so make sure you understand the requirements. In order to qualify you must:

  1. at a low-income school; OR
  2. special education; OR
  3. in mathematics, science, foreign languages, or bilingual education; OR
  4. in a field that has a shortage of qualified teachers in your state.

The U.S. Department of Education maintains a current list of low-income schools so you can be sure you’re working at the right one. Click here to be taken to the Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory of public and private nonprofit elementary and secondary schools designated by the U.S. Department of Education as having a high concentration of students from low-income families.

To apply, contact the school that holds your Perkins Loans and to learn more about requirements, see the Federal Student Aid website.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness program may be able to let you have up to 50% of your undergraduate Stafford and Direct Loans. It won’t cover your PLUS Loans, however.

To qualify, you must teach full-time over a period of five consecutive years in failing public schools or in educational agencies serving low-income families.

If you’re eligible, you can have forgiven up to a combined total of $17,500 on your Direct Loans and Stafford Loans.

The U.S. Department of Education maintains an online database of schools, but you can also contact the state education agency contact in the state where the school is located.

The time to apply is after completion of the five year teaching requirement. All you’ll need to do is complete the application, obtain certifications of your service by each of the schools in which you’ve work for the five-year period, and wait for a response.

Perkins Program Teacher Cancellation

If you have a Federal Perkins Loan you may be eligible for loan cancellation if you have been teaching at a low-income school in certain subject areas.

You qualify for cancellation of up to 100 percent of a Federal Perkins Loan if you have served full-time in a public school system teaching low-income students in certain subject areas.

Other Options For Teachers

Some of my clients have found that Public Service Loan Forgiveness works far better than do either of these programs, though others prefer to opt for Teacher Loan Forgiveness. It’s often a tricky decision, and one that I will usually spend days or even weeks poring over.

Loan Forgiveness & Funding Opportunities



4 Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Teachers



The Complete Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers



In addition, many teachers find that using income-based repayment or income-contingent repayment options for their federal student loans makes sense for them during the five-year repayment period required under these programs.

Whatever you do, it’s important to keep track of your payments and service records. They’ll come in handy whatever you do.

Image credit:  ben110