Speaking of Teacher Shortages, Please Note—Financial Relief Available for Teaching in High-Need Schools and High-Need Subject Areas

This week the national media seem to have discovered there is a shortage of teachers in many parts of the country, especially a shortage of teachers prepared to serve in low-income schools or high-need subject areas. For devotees of free-market economics, one is tempted to say the supply-and-demand solution to this problem should be blindingly obvious: higher pay. It also would make sense to minimize student debt so that would-be teachers coming out of preparation programs can afford to follow their chosen profession. (On this issue of student debt, see for example the proposals made just this week by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton: College Affordability Plan).

Employers, even if unable or unwilling to raise pay sufficiently, also can try to make the job more intrinsically rewarding by treating teachers more like adult professionals and less like indentured servants. However, another option finding favor in some quarters is to lower standards for entry into teaching jobs. As last Sunday’s New York Times headline put it, this is the “credentials optional” approach. One prominent and increasingly controversial example is the temporary hiring of college grads with a modicum of training via the Teach for America program.

While policy-makers will continue to debate the scope of teacher shortages and how to address them, teachers need to know about financial relief available right now for teaching in high-need schools and high-need subject areas. Here is the pertinent link to the Texas Education Agency’s page on various forms of loan forgiveness for teachers. And here is what you will find on that page:

Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers

Every year TEA submits a list of teacher shortage areas by subject matter and a list of designated low-income schools to the U.S. Department of Education. Teachers with certain types of student loans may qualify for partial loan forgiveness, deferment, or cancellation benefits.

Eligibility for these benefits depends on the type of loan the teacher has, the date of his or her first loan, and whether the teacher serves in a designated low-income school or subject matter teacher shortage area.

Teacher Shortage Areas

For the 2015-2016 school year, teacher shortage areas are the following:

Bilingual/English as a Second Language

Career and Technical Education

Computer Science

English as a Second Language

Mathematics

Science

Special Education – Elementary and Secondary Levels

Refer to the following link for a complete list of shortage areas:

U.S. Department of Education – Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide Listing 1990 through 2015(outside source)

Loan Forgiveness Options

This section explains loan forgiveness options for teachers and all other school staff. Teachers may apply for any of the four programs listed below if the balance of their unpaid federal student loans exceeds the forgiveness amount and if they meet the requirements of the program. Private loans are not eligible. If you are not sure what type of loan you have, contact your lender.

Loan forgiveness options for teachers only are as follows:

Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness

TEACH for Texas Loan Repayment Assistance (outside source)

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (outside source)

Federal Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation (outside source)

You must have a federal Perkins loan to be eligible for loan forgiveness. You can start the loan forgiveness process at the beginning of your first eligible year of teaching service. You must contact the university that provided the loan.

Loan forgiveness options for all education staff including non-teachers are the following:

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (outside source)

Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation for Special Education (outside source)

If you are a special education teacher, you must have an official at the public or other nonprofit elementary or secondary school certify that you are teaching handicapped or learning disabled students. Do this either on the federal Perkins loan postponement and cancellation form or on an official letter from the school bearing the school’s seal or letterhead. For loans made by the Perkins loan program on or after July 23, 1992, this cancellation includes special education teachers.

If you provide one of the following services, you qualify as a teacher only if: 1) you are licensed, certified, or registered by the appropriate state education agency for the area you provide related special educational services for, and 2) the services you provide are part of the educational curriculum for handicapped children:

speech and language pathology and audiology;

physical therapy;

occupational therapy;

psychological and counseling services; or

recreational therapy.

Other Grant and Loan Resources

The programs below are not affiliated with TEA:

College for all TEXANS (outside source)

Planning for College (outside source)

Mapping Your Future (outside source)

New Payment options for your student loan debt (outside source)

TEACH Grant Program (outside source)

Join the Loan/Forgiveness/Deferment listserv to receive updates and tips about the Loan Forgiveness options for Texas teachers.

If you have additional information that is not provided, please email TeacherLoanForgiveness@tea.texas.gov. When you email, please provide the school name, the nine-digit school code, district name, and county as well as the dates of employment at this school. If you do not have the nine-digit school code, please use AskTED to look up the information.