What Is A TEACH Grant?
Students pursuing a career in education can receive additional financial aid through the federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant program. It offers annual financial assistance to undergraduate students in exchange for at least a four-year teaching service requirement after leaving school.
According to the Department of Education, almost 27,000 students nationwide received a TEACH grant in the 2019-20 academic year. Thanks to expanded program changes that were implemented in 2021, the number of recipients is expected to increase to 40,000 in 2022.
What Is a TEACH Grant?
The federal TEACH grant offers up to $4,000 in annual financial aid to full-time undergraduate and graduate students who are enrolled in a teaching degree program. The lifetime total award for undergraduate students is up to $16,000 while graduate students can receive a maximum lifetime award of $8,000.
Grant recipients are required to fulfill a teaching service obligation after leaving school. Upon successful completion of your service, you aren’t required to repay the award funds that you received.
However, if you don’t fulfill your service agreement, any grant money you received will be converted to an unsubsidized Direct loan. You’ll also be responsible for paying interest charges starting from each award’s disbursement date.
TEACH Grant Service Agreement
If you participate in the TEACH grant program, you’re required to complete a minimum four years of service within the first eight years of graduating or leaving school. To fulfill the service agreement, you must work as a full-time, highly qualified teacher serving low-income students at an elementary school, secondary school or educational agency.
The program also requires that you teach a high-need subject. Some subjects that are considered “high-need” include:
- English language acquisition
- Bilingual education
- Foreign language
- Science and computer science
- Special education
A separate four-year service obligation is required if you received grant funds as an undergraduate student, and then receive a TEACH grant as a graduate student later. In this situation, you might have to fulfill two four-year service obligations.
However, a temporary service suspension can be requested if you choose to enroll in graduate school immediately after receiving your undergraduate degree, and before beginning your teaching service. In this scenario, you might be able to satisfy both service obligations through the same teaching service.
TEACH Grant Eligibility Requirements
There are multiple eligibility requirements to participate in the federal TEACH grant program. Below are the criteria you must meet to receive an award:
- Meet basic requirements for federal financial aid
- Submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year
- Attend a participating TEACH grant school as an undergraduate, postbaccalaureate or graduate student
- Enroll in an eligible program at your participating institution
- Maintain academic performance of at least a 3.25 GPA or scoring at the 75th percentile or greater on certain college admissions tests
- Complete TEACH grant counseling for each eligible award year
- Sign the TEACH grant agreement
Do I Have to Repay a TEACH Grant?
TEACH grants don’t have to be repaid as long as you fulfill your teaching service agreement within the allotted time period. Once you complete at least four years of full-time service teaching a high-need subject to low-income students at an eligible school, you’ve satisfied the service requirement.
However, if for any reason you’re unable or unwilling to complete your teaching service obligation, the grant amount is converted into a federal unsubsidized direct loan. This debt will then need to be repaid with interest, like a normal student loan.
How to Apply for a TEACH Grant
The first step to applying for a federal TEACH grant is submitting your FAFSA. The FAFSA becomes available on October 1 every year, and it pays to submit it as early as possible; some financial aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you’re still considering which school to attend, reach out to each school’s financial aid office to confirm whether it participates in the TEACH grant program. If you’re already enrolled in a participating school and qualify for a TEACH grant award, your school will notify you of your eligibility.
Other Aid for Teachers
If you need additional financial aid to pursue your education degree, consider these other teacher-focused financial aid options.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness
Teachers can have up to $17,500 of their Direct or FFEL loans forgiven through Teacher Loan Forgiveness. After completing five years of consecutive, full-time teaching service, you can submit an application for loan forgiveness.
Generally, teachers can receive $5,000 in loan forgiveness maximum. However, educators who teach math, science subjects or special education can receive up to $17,500 in forgiveness.
Perkins Loan Cancellation
Borrowers who have an outstanding Perkins Loan balance can receive full forgiveness of their debt through Perkins Loan Cancellation for teachers. It requires you to teach at low-income schools, full time, for five years.
Forgiveness is doled out in varying increments based on your teaching year. Below is the breakdown per year for Perkins Loan Cancellation:
- 15% forgiven annually in years one and two
- 20% forgiven annually in years three and four
- 30% forgiven in year five
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
School teachers who have outstanding federal Direct loans might be eligible for PSLF. It requires you to work full-time at a government or nonprofit employer for at least 10 years.
During your employment, you must enroll your Direct loans in an income-driven repayment plan and make 120 payments toward your eligible federal student loans. After making the qualifying payments, you can submit a PSLF request to have your remaining balance forgiven.