College Financial Aid Options for Teaching School
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Whether you’ve always known that you were destined for a teaching career and inspiring young minds, or you just recently decided on a career path in the education field, you need to find out how to fund your teacher education. And you can do that with various sources of college financial aid.
In order to become a teacher, you need at least four years of college. That can be expensive. The good news is that financing your teacher education can be easy, especially if you know where to look.
The first step in getting college financial aid is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to determine your school financial aid and college loan eligibility.
Here is a rundown of the many financial aid resources available to teacher education students.
Teacher Education School Scholarships
Scholarships, in essence, are “free money.” Because scholarships don’t need to be paid back, it’s worth the added effort to search out and apply for as many as possible. Competition is usually tough, but it’s always worth a try since scholarships range between hundreds and thousands of dollars.
Scholarships are typically merit-based which means you could be recognized for artistic accomplishments, academic achievement or athletic ability; however, some are available based on group membership, employment, or even racial or religious affiliation.
Some scholarships may have strict requirements, such as a specific course of study or involvement in an organization. Maintaining a satisfactory grade point average is usually part of the deal as well.
Be sure to keep tabs on scholarship application deadlines since they will vary.
For more information on applying for teaching school scholarships, see our college scholarships article.
Teacher Education School Grants
More than a thousand federal grant programs exist in the U.S. tallying up to more than $400 billion.
Like scholarships, the biggest advantage that comes with getting grants is that you don’t have to pay back the money you receive. According to the U.S. Department of Education, repayment of a grant may be required if you withdraw from school before finishing a semester.
Grants fall into the “need-based” category meaning your financial situation will be a major factor for eligibility; many students actually qualify for this form of college financial aid. While grants and scholarship awards may not cover the entire cost of your teacher education, they can certainly help tremendously.
Often, schools automatically consider you for grants when you complete a FAFSA and apply to school. Many students pursuing a teaching degree can get a Pell Grant through the FAFSA application process.
One specific federal grant to look into is the TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) grant. The grant, which awards up to $4,000 per year to students, has specific requirements that differ from other federal grants.
To be eligible, students must agree to teach in a high-need field (for example, science, math or bilingual education) or work in a school system that “serves students from low-income families.” Students are required to fulfill other criteria which are outlined on the U.S. Department of Education TEACH Grant site.
Many of the requirements are based on your teaching career after college and if they’re not fulfilled, you’ll be required to pay the money back in the form of a direct unsubsidized loan.
For more student grant information, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid site.
Teacher Education Student Loans
Stafford, PLUS, subsidized and unsubsidized loans. These are just a few terms you’ll see and hear about when applying for financial aid. Understanding the differences between federal loans will help you make a smarter decision about financing your education.
Federal student loans, and specifically the interest rates attached, are regulated by the U.S. government. This means student loans have lower interest rates than other types of loans. Repayment of the loans doesn’t begin until six months after graduation or when you’re enrolled in school less than half time.
Sometimes life throws us a curveball, so if you find yourself struggling to pay your loans, there are assistance options including deferment and forbearance. Borrowers are given more interest-free time on their loans.
There are two loan programs operated by the U.S. Department of Education: the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program and the Federal Perkins Loan Program.
Stafford loans are part of the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program which means the U.S. Department of Education acts as the lender. Students can receive either subsidized or unsubsidized loans.
- Subsidized loans are based on a student’s financial need. While the student is in school, the government pays the interest.
- Students are responsible for paying the accrued interest with an unsubsidized loan.
Federal Perkins Loan Program
Loan disbursement is done by the school in the Federal Perkins Loan Program, so it’s best to check with your teacher education schools to find out if they participate. Several factors affect how much a student can receive, but the maximum amount is $5,500 per year. For graduate students, the maximum amount is $8,000 per year.
PLUS Loans are geared toward graduate and professional degree students and parents. In order for parents to qualify, the dependent undergraduate student must be in school at least half time.
PLUS loans have a yearly limit which is equal to a student’s school costs minus other financial assistance received. Other important characteristic of PLUS loans include:
- The first payment is due 60 days after the loan is distributed. Parents are required to pay a small fee as well.
- Good credit history is necessary
- Students with spotty credit can use a co-signer to obtain the loan
Because private loans typically have higher limits, they can be a good option for students who don’t receive enough from the federal government. Students don’t have to start repaying their loans until they graduate, but the interest on the loan accrues immediately.
Like other loans, your eligibility and interest rate will be based on your credit score. Having a credit score above 650 usually increases your chances of approval.
For more information about student loans, visit GovLoans.gov.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program (TLFP)
There are many benefits to becoming an educator, including working with kids and helping them achieve their scholastic and athletic potential. One of the biggest rewards, however, is the nation’s commitment to help teachers pay back their student loans through the loan forgiveness program.
While it may not be technically a type of college financial aid, the Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program (TLFP) provides loan compensation for teachers who teach for five consecutive years in high-poverty schools. Most loan forgiveness programs benefit teachers who are strong in the math, science and special education subject specialties, and forgive up to $5,000 of their loan balance.
In some instances, usually for highly qualified secondary math and science teachers, or elementary and secondary special education teachers, individuals have had up to $17,500 of their loans forgiven.
For more information about TLFP, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s teacher loan forgiveness page.
We’ve compiled the complete handbook to debt relief and student loan forgiveness so you can find answers to all your questions in one place. Here’s our guide to Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers in 2018.
Teacher Education School Work-Study Programs
Another form of financial aid is work-study. These programs let students earn money while earn school by working on-campus, at community-related jobs or teacher assistant jobs. Just like other financial aid programs, your financial need will be a factor for eligibility.
Work-study programs pay students at least the federal minimum wage, but you can often find jobs that will pay more. As an aspiring teacher, it can be especially beneficial to look for work-study jobs related to your field. Not only will you earn money, but you’ll be building your resume.
When you fill out your FAFSA form, you can indicate that you’re interested in work-study opportunities.
For more information on work-study programs, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s federal work-study page.