Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Loan Scholarship Programs

It can feel daunting to pay off student loans on a first year salary. The good news is you may not need to. If you have the skills to succeed in a school with a high low-income Title 1 population, you may exchange some or all of your debt for service. Depending on the type of loan you have, you may cancel all of it for five years of service.

This is not the only option. If your teaching degree is in a very high needs/ chronic shortage field, you can go just about anywhere to teach. And if you’re just beginning your teacher preparation, you can look into loan scholarship programs. This can be a better option in more ways than one – when you’re just beginning your education, there is an element of uncertainty about what types of employment will qualify you at the point you actually begin teaching.

Some programs are offered by the federal government. Some states have their own, with slightly different qualifications and obligations. They are a varied set with some offering more money and more enticement than others.

Federal Loan Cancellation and Forgiveness Programs

The Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation program can cancel fully 100% of Perkins loans or qualifying teachers ( Loans are canceled incrementally across a five year period. (The first two years are worth just 15% each while the fifth year is worth 30%.) Teachers can qualify by serving as teachers at low income schools. The program is also available to educators in math, science, and foreign language as well as other teaching fields that have been determined at the state level to be shortage areas. Teachers can receive deferment while they are meeting their service obligations.

Early childhood teachers who teach in Head Start or in other programs that are not considered to be part of elementary programs can also qualify; the terms are different, however. A Head Start teacher would need seven years to cancel 100% of his or her Perkins loan, but a portion could be canceled each year.

Information about qualifying loans is available from the federal government (

The federal government maintains a Low-Income School Directory. Teachers can search by year. The U.S. Department of Education states that if the school is listed at least one year that the teacher is working there (and meet other qualifications), the teacher can receive loan forgiveness for subsequent years. A Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) school or a reservation school operated under contract with the BIE qualifies.

The loan forgiveness program operates under a different set of standards. Stafford and direct loans can be forgiven (up to a set monetary limit) after five consecutive qualifying years ( The program generally pays $5,000. However, $17,500 is available to qualified math, science, and special education teachers.

Federal Grants and Scholarships

Many schools participate in the TEACH program. The TEACH Grant can provide moneys while the teacher is still in school. The assistance is offered in exchange for four years of service. This program comes with its own set of academic standards.

The Robert Noyce Scholarship program is designed specifically to support educators in STEM fields (

State Programs

The Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment sweetens the federal program for Illinois teachers. If one is qualified for $5,000 through the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, Illinois may match it with $5,000 more (

Maryland teachers may qualify for the Janet L. Hoffman Maryland Loan Repayment Program ( Assistance can be provided to teachers in designated high need teaching fields, low income/ Title I schools, and schools identified for improvement. Maximum yearly and total payments are determined by debt load; they can be quite high. New applications are grouped by priority. The Nancy Grasmick Teacher Award, meanwhile, is available to high performing Maryland teachers in STEM fields or in schools where 75% of the students qualify for the free lunch program.

Illinois also has a tuition waiver program for future special education teachers. Recipients may be current teachers who are in fields outside special education.

Delaware Teacher Corps may award loans up to the cost of tuition to qualified students; loans can be forgiven in full for teaching in shortage areas (

The Arizona Teacher Loan Program makes awards of up to $7,000 a year to financially needy education students in exchange for a service commitment; the length of service is equal to the length of financial assistance plus one additional year ( The Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education describes the program as “first come, first served” for those found eligible.

The Arkansas State Teacher Education Program (STEP) can provide a teacher with $3,000 a year in loan repayment for teaching in a geographic or subject-based critical shortage area -- $1,000 a year more if a member of a minority group (

The Educators for Maine loan scholarship program can award students $2,000-$3,000 a year, depending on the degree level sought ( Decisions are based on multiple factors, including essay and academic performance as well as teaching area.

Minnesota operates the Teacher Shortage Loan Repayment Program ( Educators can qualify based on geographic area or teaching area -- and there are quite a lot of them! The Minnesota program can assist with more types of loan than the federal program, though repayment is limited to $1,000, there may not be enough funds for all who meet basic requirements.

Additional State Resources

Alaska Teacher Education Loan

North Dakota Student Loan Forgiveness Program for Teachers

South Carolina Teacher Loan Programs and Forgiveness

Tennessee Teaching Scholars Program

Utah T.H. Bell Teaching Incentive Loan

Virginia Teaching Scholarship Loan Program

West Virginia Underwood-Smith Loan Scholarship Program