Explaining Student Loan Forgiveness For Teachers

October 03, 2023 · 7 minute read

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Explaining Student Loan Forgiveness For Teachers

There are several options for teachers seeking to reduce their federal student loan debt, including loan forgiveness and cancellation. For example, teachers may qualify for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF), and/or the Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers. Also, there are state and local loan forgiveness, cancellation, and grant programs. We’ll discuss these options in more depth below.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

Amount forgiven:

Up to $5,000 or up to $17,500, depending on the subject area you teach.

Which loans might qualify:

Direct (or Stafford) Loans, both subsidized and unsubsidized, and FFEL Program Loans. For borrowers with Direct Consolidation Loans, the outstanding portion of the consolidation loan that repaid an eligible Direct Subsidized Loan, Direct Unsubsidized Loan, Subsidized Federal Stafford Loan, or Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan may qualify as well. Learn more here .


•   Teaching at a low-income school; you can search for a school in this directory

•   Teaching for five complete and consecutive academic years

•   Existing student loans cannot be in default


The maximum amount that can be forgiven under this program depends on the role and subject the borrower teaches. Teachers are eligible to receive up to $17,500, if they are considered “highly qualified” as defined by the program and are full-time math or science teachers in an eligible school. Teachers working in special education that meet specific requirements may also qualify to have $17,500 forgiven.

Teachers are eligible to receive up to $5,000 if they are a “highly qualified” full-time elementary teacher or a full-time secondary school teacher in all other subject areas.

What does “highly qualified” mean? That the borrower has a bachelor’s degree, full state certification as a teacher, and their certification or licensure requirements were not waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis.

If you apply for Teacher Loan Forgiveness, you can’t also apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) for the same period. So if you receive Teacher Loan Forgiveness, the five-year period of service that supported your eligibility will not count toward PSLF.

How to apply:

Teachers are not eligible to apply until they have completed the five years of service. After completing this requirement, borrowers can fill out the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application. (It may be helpful to get acquainted with the application now, because it clearly explains who qualifies for what amount of forgiveness.)

💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

Amount forgiven:

Up to 100% of the remaining loan balance.

Which loans qualify:

Direct Loans, also known as Stafford Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans.


•   Must be in certain public sector jobs and employed full-time

•   Must have made 120 qualifying payments (this takes 10 years if the borrower makes them consecutively)

•   Payments must be made as part of an income-driven repayment plan

•   Existing student loans cannot be in default


Unlike with the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application , teachers don’t need to teach for a low-income school or within a particular academic subject when applying for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF).

To be eligible for this program, the borrower must be employed by the local, state, or federal government, or work for certain nonprofit organizations that provide a qualifying public service — such as general education services.

To qualify for PSLF, borrowers must be on an income-driven repayment plan. With an income-driven repayment plan , borrowers are only required to pay a certain percentage (between 10 and 20%) of their discretionary income toward their monthly student loan payments.

Recommended: A Look into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

Sometimes, there is confusion about whether forgiven loan balances are taxed. If a borrower meets the qualifications for PSLF, the forgiven amount will not be taxed. For borrowers who are on an income-driven repayment plan and expect their loans to be forgiven after 20 or 25 years (but are not participating in the PSLF program), it is possible that the forgiven amount will be taxed as income. To understand more about these tax nuances, consult a licensed tax advisor.

To qualify for PSLF, the 120 qualifying monthly payments do not need to be consecutive. For example, if a borrower has a period of employment with a non-qualifying employer, they will not lose credit for any prior qualifying payments made with a PSLF-approved employer.

While it is possible to partake in both the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and PSLF, it’s not possible to do so concurrently. Your five years of service under the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program does not count toward your qualification for PSLF — you will have to qualify for PSLF under a different period of teaching service. Furthermore, payments made when working toward the Teacher Loan Cancellation Program will not qualify for PSLF — you will have to make 120 additional qualifying payments for the PSLF program.

To apply:

Borrowers may want to fill out the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) form with the PSLF Help Tool to be certain that their employment qualifies for the program. Once received by the Department of Education, the borrower will receive a response telling them whether or not they qualify, and if they don’t, what needs to be done to qualify. If the borrower does qualify, the DoE will tell them how many qualifying payments have already been made and how many need to be made.

Every time a borrower changes jobs, they’ll need to send in an updated Employment Certification form. Otherwise, borrowers will be required to submit an Employment Certification form for each of their previous employers when they apply for forgiveness.

Once a borrower has received notification that their PSLF Employment Certification has been approved, they’ll need to continue making those on-time student loan payments. After making 120 payments, they can apply for forgiveness.

Perkins Loans Cancellation for Teachers

Amount forgiven:

Up to 100% of the loan, done in increments over a five-year period.

Which loans qualify:

Federal Perkins Loans (The Federal Perkins Loan program expired in September 2017, but loans disbursed through the program may still qualify.)


A minimum one year of teaching and at least one of the following requirements:

•   Teaching at a low-income school; search for a school in this directory

•   Teaching science, math, foreign languages, bilingual studies, or special education

•   Teaching a subject that has a shortage of qualified teachers in your state

•   Teaching in a school operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or on a qualifying Indian reservation


Those who are eligible for the Perkins Loans Cancellation for Teachers may have all of their Perkins Loans forgiven. Cancellation happens in stair-step increments over five years. Here’s how the incremental forgiveness system works:

•   15% of the original Perkins loan balance is canceled per year for the first and second years of service

•   20% is canceled in both the third and fourth years

•   30% is canceled in the fifth year

In order to qualify for this program, an employee must work directly for the school system — qualifying is entirely contingent on position duties.

To apply:

Each school has its own process, so borrowers should contact the school that administered the Perkins Loan.

State and Local Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Some states offer loan forgiveness programs for teachers, especially for those who work in subject areas in high demand. One place to start your search for a state and local teacher loan forgiveness program is through this database created by the American Federation of Teachers.

What About My Other Student Loans?

So far, all of the programs we’ve discussed only apply to federal loans. What can be done if a borrower has other loans (like private loans) that don’t qualify for federal teacher loan forgiveness?

One option is to look into refinancing the student loans. When a borrower refinances a student loan or multiple loans, they are essentially paying those loans off with a new loan from a new lender. Ideally, the new loan has a more competitive interest rate than the existing loan(s), which could potentially save the borrower money over the life of the loan.

Borrowers can refinance both private and federal student loans, so it is an option for teachers who don’t have loans that qualify for one of the federal forgiveness or cancellation programs.

If you refinance your federal loans, you will lose access to federal loan benefits such as access to the PSLF program and the Teacher Loan Cancellation Program. There’s always the option to refinance your private loans while keeping your federal loans separate.

The Takeaway

Teachers with federal student loans may be able to pursue loan forgiveness through programs like Teacher Loan Forgiveness or Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs. Borrowers who hold Perkins Loans may also be able to pursue Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers. If you also have private loans, refinancing may be a good option, though as stated above, refinancing federal loans disqualifies borrowers from government forgiveness programs.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

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