Updated: May 25
Most teachers give the same answer when asked why they've decided to dedicate their lives to education. They want to influence and make a difference in the lives of their students.
Unfortunately for far too many educators out there, the financial burdens of student loan debt make their jobs more difficult. Some teachers have taken on second or even third jobs as a way to make ends meet.
Ends can be even harder to meet for those that have agreed to work for Teach for America (TFA), a program that helps place excellent teachers into low-income areas in need of good educators.
But what many teachers don't realize is that there are actually student loan forgiveness options available to TFA past and present members.
Today, we'll talk about student loan forgiveness options for Teach for America corps members.
This article will cover:
What is Teach for America?
Let's start by understanding the specifics of the Teach for America program. TFA is a nonprofit organization that actively searches for and places college graduates in low-income education districts across the United States.
The program is really competitive for teachers to gain entry into, and entrance comes with a two-year minimum commitment.
Over their two-year commitment, program participants will pursue educator credentialing while earning a steady salary and benefits. Accepted TFA corps members will be placed at a K-12 public or charter school.
Teach for America eligibility requirements
Though the acceptance rate is typically only 11-15%, the Teach for America program only has three overarching requirements for acceptance. They are:
A college graduate with at least a Bachelor's degree from an accredited university
A GPA of at least 2.5
In addition to these two, you also need to be a United States citizen, DACA recipient, or legal resident.
Teach for America student loan forgiveness
While Teach for America does not offer their own student loan forgiveness program, program participants are eligible for a couple of federal programs, including:
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF)
Program participants may also pursue a loan forgiveness award through the AmeriCorps Segal Education Award.
1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Teach for America participants are likely to be eligible for the PSLF program. A federal forgiveness program, program participants may qualify to have 100% of their Direct Loans forgiven after making 120 qualifying monthly payments while working for an eligible not-for-profit employer.
This does mean that you'll either need to work in the TFA for ten years or complete your service and move on to work for another qualifying employer for the remainder of the decade requirement.
This could potentially lead to you receiving tens of thousands of dollars in student loan forgiveness.
2. Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF)
Teach for America program participants may be eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness, a second federal program that offers qualifying teachers up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness in exchange for working in low-income schools across the country.
Eligible teachers will:
Teach for five complete and consecutive school years in a low-income school
Be a highly qualified teacher
Be fully credentialed to teach in their field
Those that teach mathematics, science, or special education are eligible for the maximum $17,500 amount, while teachers of other subjects qualify for $5,000 in assistance.
You can find more information at the studentaid.gov website.
3. Income-Driven Repayment
The final federal forgiveness program for Teach of America recipients to consider is income-driven repayment. IDR, as it is known, awards student loan forgiveness to Teach for America members after making 20-25 years of reduced payments, depending on the program.
There are four main IDR plans, including:
Income Based Repayment
Income Contingent Repayment
Pay as You Earn
Revised Pay as You Earn
Your reduced payments will be calculated by taking the difference between your adjusted gross income and 150% of the poverty line for your household size and state of residence.
4. AmeriCorps Segal Education Award
TFA corps member qualify for the Segal Education Award, a program that awards recipients with a financial award that recipients can use to pay for educational expenses or help pay down existing student loan debt.
Due to funding and competition year over year, award amounts can vary. Historically, however, the average award is $6,345.
To be eligible, you'll need to be a United States citizen, complete an approved AmeriCorps program (TFA qualifies), and comply with all conduct and service hour requirements in your contract.
TFA and Perkins Loan Cancellation
This isn't one of the more publicized programs out there, partially due to the Perkins Loan program being discontinued, but TFA/AmeriCorps members with Perkins Loans left may qualify for loan cancellation.
As an AmeriCorps VISTA, you may qualify to have 70% of your Perkins Loan balance forgiven over a period of four years, based on the following schedule:
15% Perkins Loan forgiveness after years one and two
20% forgiveness following years three and four
Remember that this program is only available on federal Perkins Loans, meaning any private or other federal loans are not applicable.
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