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Student loan forgiveness for teachers

6 options to have up to 100% of your student debt load cancelled.

Teachers can qualify for forgiveness through three main federal programs, though you might also want to look at state and local forgiveness options. Most are only available for federal student loans and require a commitment to work for at least five years serving low-income students. Talk to your school’s financial aid office or your principal to learn about what options might be available to you.

6 student loan forgiveness programs for teachers

Forgiveness programForgiveness amountsEligible loansRequirements
Teacher Loan Forgiveness ProgramUp to $17,500
  • Direct Subsidized Loans
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans
  • Subsidized FFEL Loans
  • Unsubsidized FFEL Loans
  • Work full time for at least five years at a qualifying low-income school or educational service agency
  • Highly qualified teacher
  • At least one teaching year after the 1997-1998 academic year
  • No outstanding Direct or FFEL Loans issued before October 1, 1998


Public Service Loan Forgiveness ProgramUp to 100% of qualifying debt
  • Federal Direct Loans
  • Federal Direct Loans
  • Make 120 income-driven repayments
  • Work at an eligible public service teaching job
Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation ProgramUp to 100% of your Federal Perkins Loans
  • Federal Perkins Loans
Teach full time at a public or nonprofit elementary or secondary school for five consecutive years and meet one of the following criteria:

  • Teach at a school serving low-income students
  • Teach special education
  • Teach a subject where there is a shortage of qualified instructors in your state
State forgiveness programsVaries by stateVaries by stateVaries by state
Local forgiveness programsVaries by countyVaries by countyVaries by county
Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Forgiveness100% of remaining federal loan balance forgivenVaries by IDR plan
  • Make 20 or 25 years of repayments on an IDR plan

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

  • Best for: Borrowers with $17,500 of debt or less.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness is an incentive program to bring qualified teachers to low-income communities. You have to work for five consecutive years at a qualifying school or educational service agency — you can find out if yours is eligible by checking the Teacher Cancellation Low Income (TCLI) Directory, which the Department of Education updates each year. If you’re a new teacher, you have to pass a state test showing that you’re proficient in the subject you’re teaching.

Unlike the other two federal cancellation programs, this one only cancels up to $17,500 of debt. You might also want to look elsewhere if you have PLUS loans, since consolidating these loans won’t help you qualify.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

  • Best for: Borrowers with over $17,500 of debt, PLUS Loans or plans to take a gap year from teaching.

Teachers planning to work in the public school system or for a nonprofit private school for at least the next decade might want to consider Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) — especially if you have Plus Loans, which aren’t eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness. While it takes at least 10 years to qualify — you have to make 120 income-driven repayments — they don’t have to be in a row. This makes PSLF a better choice for teachers who plan on taking a year or two off.

You also don’t have to be a teacher the whole time to qualify. If you decide to switch careers, you’re still eligible for PSLF if you continue to work at a nonprofit or government organization. But beware — this program had an acceptance rate of around 1% during the first few rounds of applications.

Perkins Loan Cancellation Program

  • Best for: Borrowers with Perkins Loans.

This program offers the best deal available if you have Federal Perkins Loans. You can get up to 100% of your loans canceled if you work for five consecutive years as a teacher. You can defer your loans while you’re teaching, meaning you effectively don’t have to make any repayments. And you can also get partial cancellation for each year you work in a qualified position:

  • 15% cancellation for the first and second year
  • 20% cancellation for the third and fourth year
  • 30% cancellation for the fifth year

State and local forgiveness programs

  • Best for: Borrowers who struggle to qualify for the other programs above.

Most states have teacher loan forgiveness programs you might also be able to qualify for. These are typically incentive programs to bring teachers to low-income schools or areas lacking in subject-specific teachers — such as special education, math or science teachers. Some might even forgive private loans.

You can search for programs available in your area on the American Federation of Teachers website.

Income-Driven Repayment forgiveness

  • Best for: Borrowers who became teachers later in life and have been paying offer their student loans on an IDR plan.

If you sign up for a federal Income-Driven Repayment plan, you can get the remaining balance forgiven after 20 or 25 years of repayments. But don’t sign up for one of these plans unless you’re sure you’re in it for the long haul — because interest capitalizes if you switch plans. That means any interest you didn’t pay gets added to your loan balance, making your loans more expensive in the short and long term.

Can I apply for multiple forgiveness programs?

It’s possible to apply for more than one forgiveness program. But you can’t count years of service toward more than one forgiveness program at a time. It likely isn’t worth it to combine two federal programs, but you might benefit from combining Teacher Loan Forgiveness with another local forgiveness program that has a shorter work requirement.

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Bottom line

You have both federal and local options when it comes to teacher loan forgiveness. Most programs require you to make a commitment to work in a low-income community or teach a subject that has a shortage of qualified instructors, like math or science.

You can learn more about your options by checking out our guide to student loan forgiveness programs.

Frequently asked questions

Our answers to more questions about student loan forgiveness for teachers.

Do I have to teach a full academic year for it to count toward Teacher Loan Forgiveness?

Not necessarily. You can count a year you weren’t able to finish teaching toward your service commitment if you meet the following requirements:

  • You taught for at least half the academic year.
  • You fulfilled your contract requirements for the year for the purposes of salary increases, tenure and retirement.
  • You couldn’t teach the full academic year for one of the following reasons:
    • You went back to school at least half time to get another teaching degree.
    • You had a condition covered by the Family Medical Leave Act.
    • You’re a US armed forces reservist who was called to active duty for more than 30 days.

Can I qualify for forgiveness if I teach part time at multiple schools?

You might be eligible for Perkins Loan Cancellation, but you’ll need to have an official at one of the where schools you teach certify that you taught the equivalent of full time for the academic year. Other federal forgiveness programs require you to be a full-time teacher.

Do I have to pay taxes on my forgiven debt?

As of March 2021, most student loans forgiveness is no longer considered taxable income by the IRS. This counts for all loans forgiven between December 31, 2020 to January 1, 2026.

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