In the past few years, future and veteran teachers have been greatly affected by the economic recession. Mass layoffs have left classrooms fuller than ever and teacher shortages on the rise.
Now, to make matters worse, more than 1 million teachers are headed to retirement each year. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, student enrollment in elementary and secondary schools will jump from 55 million to 58 million by the year 2019. This means that even more teacher shortages are inevitable in geographic areas that have already been hit hard. Unfortunately, some new areas will also be troubled. But the government is stepping in to help alleviate some of the burden by giving tuition reimbursement incentives to elementary school teachers.
This means, if you are currently paying student loans, have had a teaching position for a specific number of years, and work in a low-income area, you can apply for the Tuition Reimbursement program and the government will pay a percentage of your loans.
This tuition reimbursement program is a great incentive for teachers to continue working in low-income and shortage areas, and encourage other teachers to consider moving and working in them too. The burden of student loans is something that can keep a graduate in debt for several years. If a teacher isn’t making much money in a low-income area, it can be especially tough to pay monthly tuition loans. However, by the United States government stepping in and wiping out that excess bill, it greatly reduces the debt that a teacher faces and allows them to live off their paychecks a little easier. It also lets them focus on their classroom and curriculum full-time rather than potentially adding a part-time, and unrelated, job to their schedules just to make ends meet. And, for those degreed professionals suffering under the hefty weight of their student loans, this type of inducement might be just enough for them to consider a career change to teaching.
Understanding Tuition Reimbursement Programs
It’s important to first of all know that there are both federal and state programs that help to forgive or completely cancel student loans. Tuition Reimbursement is just one type of program that is offered. What’s even better, is that many state programs offer ways for you to utilize multiple avenues at once and maximize the amount of student loans you can unload in exchange for teaching.
Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
This program is solely aimed at encouraging individuals to become and remain elementary school teachers. If you work as a teacher four consecutive years in a qualifying school you could have over $17,000 of your student loans forgiven. Keep in mind, however that your loans can not be in default. Other important things to note are the following: The school where you teach must be in a district that qualifies for Title I funding, the school must have more than 30% enrollment qualified for Title I services and lastly, the school must be listed in a directory of qualifying schools published by the U.S government.
Be aware those who are “highly qualified” will have larger loans forgiven. “Highly qualified” typically falls under math or science teachers at an elementary school or special education teachers working with disabled children.
State and City Sponsored Loan Forgiveness Programs
There are several state sponsored student loan forgiveness programs. Everything such as the grade level you teach, subject area, state and school district are all valid specifics that make a difference in how much of your student loans will be forgiven or completely cancelled. As a teacher with student debt, it can be extremely reassuring to know that these opportunities from the state and individual cities exist. Your individual school board will be able to give you detailed information regarding applying in county or city funded forgiveness programs. In the meantime, avoid defaulting on your loans as this can damper your chances of getting them pardoned.
How to Begin Teaching in Locations that Offer Reimbursement & Forgiveness Programs
As mentioned previously, schools that fit under this category are typically, Title I schools. There are several of them across the country so you will have your pick. In fact, more than 56,000 public school across the country used Title I funds within the past year to help low-achieving students master their curriculum just to meet state standards. These funds went for things such as after school tutoring, before school mentoring and summer programs. What’s even more shocking is that 59% of these students were between kindergarten and fifth grade. Your job as an elementary school teacher is crucial in these Title I schools and the government recognizes that through these loan forgiveness programs. As you know, you must be specifically certified in all states individually, so you will need to discuss with your school board how to get certified in the particular state you are wishing to teach.
Resources for Researching Qualifying Schools and Shortage Areas
As a teacher, you probably chose your profession based on your love of children and education and not the money. Choosing to work in a low income location where teacher shortages are high and test scores are not, a large chunk of your student loans will be taken care of and you will be able to focus on what matters most. Just think of the personal benefits and rewarding payback both emotionally and physically you will find from teaching in such locations. Of course, no matter where you teach, you are making a huge difference in a child’s life, but when you see a low income, distressed school meet the state curriculum guidelines and pass state testing after not making it for so many years, the results may feel just a little sweeter.