Counselor Corner: Teacher Loan Forgiveness For Federal Student Loans

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Darnell SALT Counselor

Darnell has been a counselor for 9 years.

When trying to understand a confusing topic like student loans, it helps to talk it through with someone—so that’s what we did. Josie Corichi chatted with SALT’s expert counselors about little details that can make a big difference when repaying student loans. Today, we hear from Darnell about Teacher Loan Forgiveness.

What Teacher Loan Forgiveness Is 

Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF) is a program that encourages borrowers to teach in schools serving low-income families by forgiving up to $5,000 or up to $17,500 of their federal student loans. The actual amount you may be eligible for depends on what you teach, where you teach, and how long you’ve been teaching.

Watch Out For This Common Mistake When Applying

The most common mistake borrowers make is not completely reading the TLF requirements and application before applying. This can lead to submitting an incomplete application.

A complete TLF application should do the following:

  • Mark all applicable selections
  • Select the forgiveness amount
  • List the complete teaching service dates (5 consecutive years)
  • Include the signature of the borrower and his or her chief administrative officer

The chief administrative officer will have full access to employment records of teachers, so they’re able to certify the information on the application.

And don’t forget to date it too!

Three Myths About Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Borrowers sometimes believe they can apply for TLF more than once—even though they’ve already received the maximum amount. That’s not the case. Once you’ve maxed out, you’ve maxed out. You also can’t apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness or Americorps benefits for the same period of service.

There’s also confusion around which loans and which schools qualify. If you have DL or FFELP loans first disbursed before October 1, 1998 or if—when you borrowed your new loans after October 1, 1998—you still owed money on a pre-October 1, 1998, DL or FFELP loan, then you will not qualify for forgiveness. With Consolidation loans, that means if your consolidation includes any DL or FFELP loans first disbursed before October 1, 1998, you will not qualify. In addition, you must have borrowed the loans you’re trying to get forgiven before the end of your 5 years of teaching service. It’s important you know these details when applying.

With schools, borrowers may think their school or educational service qualifies for TLF just because their district receives Title I funds. There’s a lot more that goes into determining which schools qualify than that. The U.S. Department of Education keeps a directory of eligible schools, so it’s easy enough to find out by going here.

How To Successfully Apply

First and foremost, be sure to read the application completely. Confirm with your chief administrative officer that your service dates are accurate and that the teaching position you held qualifies those dates for TLF.

Once you’ve done that, log on to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS®) to verify that the loan(s) listed there are eligible for TLF. (Subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans work. PLUS loans on their own don’t; however, Consolidation loans with underlying PLUS loans are OK.)

If you haven’t already searched for your school or educational service agency in the Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory, do so. That way, you can ensure the employer you listed on your application is officially classified as a low-income school for the first qualifying year of teaching service.

Finally, submit your application to your servicer for processing. At this point, you will have checked everything, so there shouldn’t be any surprises.

Have a question about TLF? Leave it in the comments. Also, learn more about loan forgiveness at saltmoney.org.  

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