TEACH Grant: Defined, Explained, and Pros and Cons

By Jacqueline DeMarco · June 17, 2022 · 7 minute read

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TEACH Grant: Defined, Explained, and Pros and Cons

If a student has goals of pursuing a career as a teacher, they may find that the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant can help them meet their goals and can save them some money. The TEACH Grant is a form of federal financial aid that is focused on helping those pursuing a career in teaching pay for their college expenses.

As part of the TEACH Grant, recipients are required to complete a teaching service obligation in order to get the grant. If this obligation isn’t completed, the grant will be transitioned into a loan that will need to be repaid with interest. Continue reading for more detailed information on the TEACH Grant.

What Is a TEACH Grant?

The TEACH Grant is a federal financial aid program designed to help students pursuing teaching careers pay for college expenses. In order to receive a TEACH Grant, applicants have to agree to teach a subject that is considered “highly needed” in a low-income area with a shortage of specific subject teachers. These schools can be elementary and secondary schools. Grant awards are up to $4,000 a year when the recipient is in school, but once they start working they will be paid their normal salary without the addition of any grant funds.

TEACH Grants are eligible for multiple subject areas, including:

•   Bilingual education and English language acquisition

•   Foreign language

•   Mathematics

•   Reading specialist

•   Science

•   Special education

•   Any other field that has been identified as high-need by select governing agencies

After graduating, recipients have to teach at a low-income school or educational agency for a minimum of four years. This four-year teaching requirement must be completed within eight years of the recipient’s graduation.

Recommended: FAFSA Grants & Other Types of Financial Aid

TEACH Grant Eligibility

The TEACH Grant comes with certain eligibility requirements, including:

•   Student must be eligible for federal student aid programs

•   Student has to be an undergrad or graduate student

•   The recipient’s school has to participate in a TEACH Grant-eligible program of study

•   Student has to be enrolled in one of these eligible programs

•   Recipient must score above the 75th percentile on one or more portions of a college admissions test or has to maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.25 or higher

How the TEACH Grant Works

Students who qualify for the TEACH Grant program may receive up to $4,000 a year in funding if they are in the process of completing — or one day plan to complete — the coursework required to start a teaching career.

In order to qualify for a TEACH Grant, the student has to sign a TEACH Grant agreement to work full-time as a teacher for four years at an elementary or secondary school or educational service agency that serves low-income students. They also need to teach in a high-need field and have to finish their teaching obligations within eight years after they graduate from or stop being enrolled at the institution of higher education where they received a TEACH Grant.

Do You Have to Pay It Back?

If the recipient fulfills all service obligations of the grant, they won’t have to repay their TEACH Grant. However, if they don’t fulfill the TEACH Grant requirements then all TEACH Grants they received will be converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans that they must repay in full. They will be charged interest starting from the day of their TEACH Grant disbursement.

Can It Be Used for Living Expenses?

The TEACH Grant is intended to fund coursework (up to $4,000 annually) for students who are in the process of or will one day complete the coursework required to begin a teaching career. Consider consulting with the financial aid department of the school the student is attending to see if these funds can also be used for living expenses.

Pros and Cons of a TEACH Grant

Like any program, the TEACH Grant has some unique advantages and disadvantages associated with it.



Up to $4,000 in funding each year to pursue the coursework required to become a teacher Must work full-time as a teacher for four years at an elementary or secondary school or educational service agency that serves low-income students
If service obligation is fulfilled, the grant doesn’t need to be repaid If the service obligation is not completed within eight years, the grant will need to be repaid in the form of a Direct Unsubsidized Loan

Applying for a TEACH Grant

Applying for a TEACH Grant is pretty straightforward. The TEACH Grant application is a part of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Students can apply for the TEACH Grant when they submit their FAFSA. Some grants may have limited funding, so it’s generally recommended that students submit the FAFSA earlier rather than later. When the student receives their financial aid offer, they’ll find out if they received a TEACH Grant.

Students must continue to apply for the TEACH Grant each year by submitting the FAFSA annually. They will also be required to complete TEACH Grant counseling and sign a new Agreement to Serve every year.

Not all schools participate in the TEACH Grant, so it’s helpful to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out if they participate in the program and to learn what specific areas of study are eligible for the program.

Alternative Forms of Funding

If a student doesn’t qualify for the TEACH Grant, finds it is not a good fit for their needs, or knows that they don’t want to complete the service obligations, these are some other options they may have for pursuing funding to help pay for college.


When a student receives a scholarship, they don’t have to repay those funds. It’s worth applying for multiple smaller scholarships, not just big ones. Those smaller scholarships can really add up.

Recommended: The Differences Between Grants, Scholarships, and Loans

Other Grants

Like scholarships, generally students don’t have to repay grants for college (unless the grant has obligations like the TEACH Grant). A student’s financial aid office can help point them in the direction of available grants and filling out the FAFSA annually can help them qualify for other federal grants, such as the Pell Grant.

Recommended: FAFSA Guide

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are funded by the U.S. Department of Education and there are a handful of different types of federal loans available to both undergraduate and graduate students. To qualify for federal student loans, students have to fill out the FAFSA each year. Federal student loans generally have better interest rates and terms than private student loans and they come with unique federal protections.

Recommended: Types of Federal Student Loans

Private Student Loans

Students can borrow private student loans from a variety of different financial institutions and they can help fill the gaps that scholarships, grants, and federal student loans leave behind. As mentioned, private student loans may not offer the same benefits as federal student loans, and for this reason, they are generally considered an option only after other funding resources have been exhausted.

Recommended: Guide To Private Student Loans 

Part-Time Work

If students are looking to avoid taking on student loan debt or want to lighten their student loan load, they could work part-time to help cover higher education costs and living expenses. There are often on-campus jobs designed to help college students balance their school work and their need to earn an income.

The Takeaway

Paying for college is expensive and a TEACH Grant can help soon-to-be teachers pay for college. That being said, the service obligations of this grant won’t appeal to all students and they may find they need to pursue alternative funding.

Some students may consider borrowing private student loans to fill funding gaps. SoFi Private Student Loans have no fees and can be completely managed online. SoFi student loans also offer a six month grace period after graduation before borrowers are required to make monthly loan payments.

Learn more about SoFi Private Student Loans today!


Is the TEACH Grant worth it?

Each individual needs to consider carefully if the service obligation attached to the TEACH Grant makes the $4,000 in financial assistance worth it to them. If they don’t want to live or teach in an area that services low-income students they may find this program isn’t a good fit for them.

Do you have to pay back a TEACH Grant?

Recipients may have to pay back their TEACH Grant if they don’t meet the full requirements of their service obligation. If a recipient failed to meet these obligations, the grant funds they received through this program would be converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans that have to be repaid in full with interest charges.

What does TEACH Grant stand for?

The acronym TEACH of TEACH Grant stands for Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH).

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Photo credit: iStock/Marcus Chung

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