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Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF) pays up to $17,500 in eligible federal student loans for qualified teachers who teach in a Title I school for five consecutive years.

What is An Eligible Loan for TLF Purposes?

To be eligible for TLF you must have had no federal loans made prior to October 1, 1998. This includes any loans made after that date, even if you have paid off the loans made prior to October 1, 1998. If you did have loans made prior to that date, the only way to be eligible is if you pay those loan in full BEFORE taking out new loans after that date. Consolidating loans made prior to October 1, 1998 does not make them eligible, even if done after that date.

Loans eligible for TLF are those made after October 1, 1998 that are either Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program Stafford loans (but subsidized and unsubsidized) or Direct (DL) Stafford loans (also subsidized or unsubsidized or federal consolidation loans, either FFEL or DL, that paid off an eligible Stafford loan. Graduate Plus, Parent Plus or the portion of a federal consolidation that paid off a Plus loan are not eligible for TLF.

How Long Must I Work as an Eligible Teacher to Receive TLF?

You must work as a teacher for five complete consecutive years at and at least one of those years must have been after the 1997–98. Your loans had to have been made before the end of your fifth year of teaching.

Partial years can count in certain circumstances. These circumstances include:

  • You returned to college at least half time and are your studies are related to the teaching service you provided
  • You were absent due to a condition covered under the Family Medical Leave Act or
  • You were ordered to active duty for more than 30 days as a member of the military reserves

In addition to the conditions listed above, you also must have completed at least one half of the year and your employer must determine you have fulfilled your contract for that academic year.

What Is An Eligible School for TLF Purposes?

To be an eligible school, the school must be considered qualified for funds under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965. You can find a directory of such schools here.

If your school loses this designation after you have completed one full year of service, subsequent consecutive years of service at that school will still qualify.

Schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education also count for TLF purposes.

For teaching service that began after the 2007/2008 academic year, service at an eligible educational service agency.

How Much Can I Receive in Loan Forgiveness Under TLF?

We are going to assume that all readers began their service on or after October 30, 2004. If you began your service before that time, please email us and we can go through the eligibility requirements with you. The following requirements are for those who began their teaching service after this date.

Note that those whose teaching service began after this date must be defined as “highly qualified” teachers. We define highly qualified in the next section. The amounts forgiven are lifetime limits.

Up to $5,000 may be forgiven if you were a full time elementary or secondary school teacher.

Up to $17,500 may be forgiven if your principal or superintendant (or other chief administrative officer) certifies that you were either a highly qualified math or science teacher or a highly qualified special education teacher who focused on children with disabilities.

  • What is a highly qualified teacher?

In many states, most teachers, especially those working for the public school system, are required to meet the highly qualified definition outlined below. It is still important to review these criteria to ensure you qualify. Due to instances of fraud, many loan holders will verify your teaching experience and/or credentials as part of the application review process.

Public Elementary and secondary school teachers are considered highly qualified if they:

  • Have obtained full state certification as a teacher and/or have passed the state teacher licensing exam and that license is current and active in that state or
  • For those in public charter schools, that they meet the requirements in the state public charter school law

All teachers, elementary, middle and secondary, must meet the following criteria to be considered highly qualified:

  • Have received at least a bachelors degree and
  • Meet the standards of a teacher who is defined as new to the profession under state law or
  • Has shown competence in the subjects the teacher teaches based on the states standard

There are additional details about this definition of highly qualified that can be found on the TLF form.

How to Apply for TLF

Once you have completed your five consecutive years of service, submit the TLF form to your loan holder. It can take 90 days or more to process this form. Note that you will continue to be due for payments during this time, however if you feel the TLF will pay your loan in full, you may want to request a forbearance to put the payments due on hold while the form is being processed.

You cannot use the same service period to cover both TLF and PSLF.  Teachers should consider their balance before deciding to pursue one or the other.  If your balance is fairly low, say under $50K, you will likely be better off pursuing TLF.