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Funding the Future: Explore Financial Aid Options for Aspiring Teachers

Getting a teaching degree is an investment, but financial aid options can mean it doesn’t always have to be a burden. This guide reveals financial aid resources for aspiring teachers, including a list of scholarships exclusively for those pursuing a degree in teaching or education.

Author: Angela Myers
Editor: STEPS Staff
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A student teacher helping an elementary schooler with their homework.

Many prospective teachers dream of powerfully impacting future generations. Unfortunately, many also have nightmares about the cost of their education. A study from 2019 suggests teachers and education majors have higher economic anxiety than those in other professions, due largely to student loans and lower salaries.

Fortunately, if you’re one of these aspiring teachers, you have many financial aid options available to help fund your education. This guide reveals the best grants, scholarships, and loan forgiveness programs for future and current teachers to take advantage of, as well as college resources to boost your financial health.

You shouldn’t have to start your teaching career concerned about student loans. Continue reading to explore how to conquer your financial worries and make your teaching dreams a reality.

Federal Financial Aid Programs for Teachers

If you’re interested in applying for financial aid, filling out the FAFSA is your first step. The FAFSA is a federal assessment of your current financial situation, which, if applicable, is based on an estimation of how much your parents can afford to provide for your college education. The report generated from your application can then be used to determine federal and state financial aid as well as scholarships from your university or private organizations.

As a future or current educator, you are also eligible for specialized federal aid that is only for those pursuing an education degree as well as financial aid specific to those who work in a public service field. We’ve outlined five types of aid below and any eligibility requirements, though most are automatically offered based on your FAFSA.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

If you received Direct or Stafford Loans and work full time as a teacher, you are probably eligible for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF) Program. For those in this program, the government forgives up to $17,500 in either type of loan, whether it is subsidized or unsubsidized.

To be eligible, teachers must meet the following requirements:

  • Work as a highly qualified teacher, as defined by the federal government
  • Be employed in a school or education service agency that serves low-income students
  • Work for five years in a job that meets the first two requirements
  • Not have any outstanding payments on other loans

TEACH Grant

The federal government launched the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) program in 2007 to help offset the cost of education for current and future educators. To receive a TEACH grant, a student must be enrolled full time and agree to teach at a low-income school or work at an education service agency that serves low-income students for at least four years after graduating.

If these requirements aren’t met, this grant turns into a direct unsubsidized loan that must be repaid.

Through this program, students who are enrolled full time can receive $4,000 a semester ($16,000 total for undergraduate study and $8,000 for graduate study).

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Student loan forgiveness isn’t universally available to all college students yet, but the federal government does offer options to those who have a degree in a public service field, including education. If you’re an employee of the government or a not-for-profit organization, you may be eligible for forgiveness on Federal Direct Loans after making 120 payments toward them. To be eligible, you must also work full time. For more on how this program works, check out the official page of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers

If you received federal financial aid before 2017, you may be eligible for this loan cancellation plan. That’s because teachers who applied for financial aid before September 2017 may have received a federal Perkins Loan, which has since been discontinued. If someone works full time as a teacher, their Perkins Loan may be forgiven in the following increments:

  • First and second years of service: 15% each year
  • Third and fourth years of service: 20% each year
  • Fifth year of service: 30%

To be eligible, students must apply directly with the school that originally issued the loan.

Federal Stafford Loan Forgiveness for Teachers

Teachers who received Stafford Loans may qualify for loan forgiveness through this program. The program forgives up to $17,500 in unsubsidized or subsidized Stafford Loans if teachers meet the following requirements:

  • Must be employed for five years at a primary school, secondary school, or educational service agency with low-income students
  • Must not have an outstanding balance for other loans, such as Direct Loans
  • Must be employed full time as a “highly qualified” teacher
  • Loans must have been issued before the five years of service required for this program

To learn more, explore federal teacher loan forgiveness requirements and terms.

State-Sponsored Financial Aid for Teachers

Along with federal programs for teachers, certain states have loan forgiveness programs or grants available for future educators. When researching these options, it’s important to check resources in the state in which you have legal residency; program requirements and financial aid awarded can vary greatly depending on your location.

For example, Ohio’s Grow Your Own Teacher Scholarship Program is co-run with local school districts, and award recipients must work in those districts upon graduation; the Virginia Teaching Scholarship Loan program, on the other hand, doesn’t have post-graduation requirements but must be paid back as it is a loan, not a scholarship.

To give you a better idea of what these programs may look like, we’re spotlighting below the state-sponsored financial aid available to future or current teachers in California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois. Even if you don’t live in one of these states, reading about these programs can give you a better idea of what to consider when researching state-sponsored aid.

California Programs

  • Cal Grant Teaching Credential Program: Let’s say you already have a bachelor’s degree but want to go back to school and get your teaching licensure. If you received a Cal Grant A or B from the California government, you may be eligible to extend that grant through this program. Within 15 months of grant approval, recipients must enroll in a professional teacher preparation program approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
  • Golden State Teacher Grant Program: This grant program provides up to $20,000 to students enrolled in a California university that’s approved through the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. To be eligible, students must receive their degree within six years and work full time as an educator for four out of the eight years after graduating.

Learn more about earning a teaching degree in California.

Texas Programs

  • Toward Excellence, Access, and Success (TEXAS) Grant Program: This program provides need-based financial aid to eligible Texas students, including those pursuing teaching degrees. To be eligible, you must be a Texas resident and demonstrate financial need. Additional eligibility requirements include enrolling in selective service, attending school full time or for three-quarters of the time when the student has the grant, and not having a previous bachelor’s degree. Recipients are awarded a grant of up to $5,379 each semester, and it is renewable.
  • Math and Science Scholars Loan Repayment Program: If you’re an education major who specializes in math or science education and you want to teach in underserved areas, you may be eligible for this loan repayment program. Those who are accepted into the program receive an annual loan repayment award, though the exact amount forgiven varies on a case-by-case basis. To be eligible, you must be a resident of Texas who intends to teach in state.

Learn more about earning an online teaching degree in Texas.

New York Programs

  • New York State Math and Science Teaching Incentive Program: If you’re attending a university in New York State to become a math or science teacher, you may be eligible for this program. The award amount varies based on the annual tuition charged. For example, if someone attended the State University of New York in the 2023-2024 academic school year, their tuition would be $7,070, so the program would award that student $7,070. To be eligible, students must teach math or science for at least five years after graduating.
  • New York State Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program: If you’ve been a resident in New York State for 12 consecutive months and teach in an understaffed subject area or a hard-to-staff school district in New York, you can apply for this program. The program awards $5,000 per year in loan forgiveness for up to four years.

Learn more about earning a teaching degree in New York.

Florida Programs

  • Florida Fund for Minority Teachers (FFMT) Scholarship Program: This Florida-based nonprofit provides scholarships to minority students pursuing teacher certification. FFMT currently offers one scholarship for $2,000 a semester or $4,000 annually. To be eligible, students must already be enrolled in an education program in the state and expect to graduate within one to three years. Scholarship recipients must also agree to work as a teacher full time in Florida for at least one year after graduation.
  • Florida Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program: This program offers loan forgiveness for eligible teachers working in designated critical teacher shortage areas. These areas are defined by the Florida Teacher Cancellation Low Income (TCLI) Directory. Eligible applicants should also have held their education license for at least five years, making this an ideal program for more experienced teachers with student loan debt.

Learn more about earning your online teaching degree in Florida.

Illinois Programs

  • Minority Teachers of Illinois (MTI) Scholarship Program: This state-sponsored program provides scholarships to minority students pursuing teaching careers in Illinois. To be eligible, students must be Black/African American, Native American, Hispanic, or Asian American. The scholarship amount varies, with $7,500 annually as the maximum amount awarded.
  • Illinois Future Teacher Corps (IFTC) Program: This program offers forgivable loans to students pursuing teaching degrees who commit to teaching in Illinois schools upon graduation.

Learn more about earning your teaching degree in Illinois.

Many of these programs exist throughout the nation. Be sure to explore local opportunities for future teachers by researching your state’s board of education.

Grant & Scholarship Options for Teachers

Scholarships and grants offered by your university or private organizations are another great financial aid option. Unlike loans, scholarships and grants don’t have to be paid back, though they may still have strict eligibility requirements.

To get you started on your scholarship search, we’ve outlined 10 scholarships below designed specifically for teaching and education students.

AATSP Study Abroad Scholarships

  • Amount of scholarship: $1,000
  • Eligibility: Students who are studying to be Spanish or Portuguese teachers can apply for this scholarship; the award can be used on any approved study abroad program in Latin America. Current teachers who are completing a summer program in Latin America may also be eligible for this scholarship.
  • Deadline: Aug. 31, 2024

American Montessori Society Teacher Education Scholarship

  • Amount of scholarship: Varies
  • Eligibility: Education majors who demonstrate financial need should consider applying for this scholarship. The award amount varies, and selection is based on financial need and academic credentials.
  • Deadline: April 19, 2024

Barbara Lotze Scholarship for Future Physics Teachers

  • Amount of scholarship: $3,000
  • Eligibility: The American Association of Physics Teachers awards this scholarship to future educators in the field. Awardees also get a yearlong membership to the association.
  • Deadline: Dec. 1, 2024

Continental Society Daughters of Indian Wars Scholarships

  • Amount of scholarship: $2,500-$5,000
  • Eligibility: Eligible students must be tribal members who plan to work with a tribe or nation in education or social service. Students must be accepted in or already attending an undergraduate program at an accredited college or university, preferably entering or in their junior year. Two scholarships are awarded each year.
  • Deadline: June 15, 2024

Duke University Continuing Studies Scholarship

  • Amount of scholarship: Up to 90% of remaining tuition on education classes
  • Eligibility: Those who are minoring or majoring in education may be eligible for Duke’s Teacher Preparation Program, which covers up to 90% of the remaining tuition for education classes. Qualified students can apply any semester for this award.
  • Deadline: rolling application

Georgia Association of Educators Foundation Future Teachers Scholarship

  • Amount of scholarship: $1,000 annually
  • Eligibility: This scholarship is only for high school seniors who are residents of Georgia and plan to get a four-year teaching degree at an in-state college or university. The scholarship may be renewed for up to four years, provided that students maintain good GPAs and don’t switch majors.
  • Deadline: Feb. 1, 2024

Penn State College of Education Scholarships

  • Amount of scholarship: Varies
  • Eligibility: The College of Education at Penn State offers more than 20 scholarships for education majors. The amount varies, and some scholarships also include professional development resources or mentorship. Education students are automatically considered as long as they submit their FASFA.
  • Deadline: Automatically considered

T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Nebraska

  • Amount of scholarship: Varies
  • Eligibility: Nebraska residents who want to become elementary school teachers should consider this scholarship. To be eligible, students must complete coursework in a bachelor’s or associate degree program related to early childhood education at a Nebraska college or university.
  • Deadline: March 1, 2024

TEACH Colorado Finish What You Started Scholarship

  • Amount of scholarship: $5,500
  • Eligibility: TEACH Colorado offers a wide variety of scholarships, including the Finish What You Started scholarship. This award is for Colorado residents who have completed some undergraduate courses but don’t have a bachelor’s degree. It provides $5,500 toward tuition at an education program at a Colorado university or college.
  • Deadline: Dec. 31, 2024

Vermont Language Teacher Scholarship

  • Amount of scholarship: Full cost of a summer language learning program
  • Eligibility: Each year, the Middlebury Language Center offers two scholarships. One is for a current foreign language teacher in Vermont who wants to continue their education; the other is for a Middlebury College undergraduate student who wants to become a foreign language teacher upon graduating.
  • Deadline: Dec. 15, 2024

Additional Financial Resources for Teachers