Student loan debt is at the top of everyone’s mind as higher education costs rise. As a teacher, reducing federal student loan debt eases financial stress. If you have federal student loan debt and work as a teacher in the state of California, you have options for managing it.
The complex paperwork of teacher loan forgiveness programs in California can start to make your vision blur. Below, each teacher loan forgiveness program is broken apart so you can see if you’re an eligible teacher.
California teacher loan forgiveness programs
Every teacher loan forgiveness program has eligibility requirements. The requirements for teachers are based on three criteria:
- How long you’ve been a teacher
- Where you teach
- What subject you teach
In addition, your loans need to be in good standing, meaning not in default. You must have federal student loans, as these options don’t apply to private student loans.
It’s helpful to have a copy of your loan statements so you know what federal student loans you currently have. If you need to find your loan details, log in to the National Student Loan Data System.
1. Assumption Program of Loans for Education (APLE) grant
The APLE grant is a California teacher loan forgiveness program administered by the California Student Aid Commission. Teachers can be eligible for up to $19,000 of student loan forgiveness. If you’re a college student pursuing teaching, a district intern or current teacher, you can apply for this program.
To be eligible for the APLE grant as a credentialed teacher, you must:
- Teach in a K-12 California public school ranked in the lowest 20% on the Academic Performance Index (API)
- Teach full time for four consecutive years or the part-time equivalent
- Keep up to date a clear single subject credential, multiple subject credential or level ll Educational Specialist Credential
- Have federal student loans in good standing and not have to pay back a federal grant
APLE Grant program isn’t currently taking applications, but it opens up annually based on state funds. Previous APLE participants must annually submit verification forms to remain in the program. Be sure to submit your employee verification form and loan balance verification form on time.
2. Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program is a federal program that forgives $17,500 or $5,000 of student loan debt depending on the subject you teach. To be eligible for this program, you must:
- Teach full time for five consecutive years
- Teach at an eligible school or educational service agency
- Be a highly qualified teacher
- Not have an outstanding loan balance before Oct. 1, 1998
To qualify for the highest amount of forgiveness, $17,500, you also need to be:
- A highly qualified mathematics or science teacher in a qualified secondary school
- A highly qualified special education teacher
If you’re not a special education, science or math teacher, you can qualify for $5,000 of student loan forgiveness. The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program is ideal for those with smaller amounts of debt who don’t plan on teaching long term.
3. Public Service Loan Forgiveness program
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program is meant for individuals who work full time in public service jobs, including teaching. Teachers can have the remaining balance of their federal student loans forgiven after 10 years. Your payments don’t need to be consecutive in this program. If you leave teaching or move to a school that no longer qualifies for a period of time, your past payments will still be counted for the 120 required.
To be eligible, you must:
- Make 120 on-time monthly payments.
- Not be in default on any of your loans
- Be employed full time by a public service organization when making payments, applying and at the time of loan forgiveness.
PSLF is open to many positions within schools, government agencies and nonprofits 501(c)s. If you’re a librarian or early childhood education teacher, you’ll want to investigate this further.
PSLF is ideal for those who are going to stay in the profession or a qualifying position for at least 10 years. You’ll want to pursue PSLF instead of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program if you have a substantial amount of student loan debt.
4. Teacher Loan Cancellation Program
This federal program is only for those with a Federal Perkins Loan. You can qualify to have your entire Federal Perkins loan forgiven over the duration of five years. To be eligible, you must:
- Be an educator at a school serving low-income families, or
- Be a special education teacher, or
- Be an educator teaching mathematics, science, foreign language, bilingual education or another subject that has a teaching shortage.
During the five years, you must be teaching full time. For many services, you will submit an application at the start and end of the school year. Each year, this program forgives a percentage of the Perkins Loan. This program is a no-brainer for anyone with federal Perkins Loans. Even if you have additional federal student loans, you can still take part in this cancellation program alongside APLE or PSLF.
California teacher scholarships and financial aid programs
California offers specific grants and scholarships to assist teachers in completing their education.
To be eligible for these programs, you must have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
5. Middle Class Scholarship
The Middle Class Scholarship is for students who want to attend a University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU). If you’re an undergraduate student pursuing a teaching credential with family income and assets of up to $171,000, you’re eligible for this scholarship. The scholarship is no less than 10% and no more than 40% of the mandatory tuition and fees for the University.
If you’ve completed the FAFSA or California Dream Act Application (CADAA) and are accepted into UC or CSU, you’ll be considered for the scholarship.
6. Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Fellowship
The Knowles Teaching Fellows Program supports those who completed a bachelor’s or advanced degree in science or mathematics and want to teach at the high school level. Fellows receive funding for their classroom and projects.
Teachers are allowed to use half of the funding received to reduce debts taken on while in school. The program is a five-year fellowship that awards a maximum of $150,000. Approximately 35 fellowships are awarded annually.
7. Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program
The TEACH Grant Program is a federal program that isn’t specific to the state of California. It can help you pay for college if you teach in a high-need field within a low-income school.
For those who qualify and are approved, you can receive up to $4,000 per year in assistance for school. You do sign an Agreement to Serve under this program to receive funds. All eligibility requirements and the application can be found on the U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid website.
A full list of scholarships and grants offered for California students can be found at CalGrants.
APLE vs. PSLF
You can use both the APLE and PSLF, but not at the same time. If you need to work part time or take a leave of absence, enroll in the APLE program first. Then move on to enroll in PSLF for the rest of your student loan payoff.
The main benefit of APLE over PSLF is the flexibility in working hours. Under the APLE grant program, you can work part time or have a full year off (leave of absence) and still be eligible. This makes APLE an ideal program for those looking to start a family or in need of medical leave.
If you’re not anticipating a need to work part time or to take a leave of absence, then enrolling in PSLF could be the better option. Staying the course with PSLF will mean less money out of your pocket since you’re still making monthly payments while under any forgiveness program.
The flexibility APLE offers compared to PSLF can be a relief for those who can’t work full time for ten years.
Which California teacher loan forgiveness program is for you?
If you’re still in school, you’ll want to focus on student aid and scholarships, but keep repayment programs in mind for your future. California is one of the highest-paying states for teacher salaries, but you’ll want to make sure you can afford the student debt in your career.
If you’re entering the teaching profession or are a current teacher, look at your loan forgiveness options first. Forgiveness programs can rarely be used simultaneously. Sometimes they can stack, but you’ll want to compare which opportunity might be better for your financial situation.
For a personalized look at your student loan debt, reach out to our team. The Student Loan Planner professionals work with teachers to create a realistic and manageable debt pay off plan.