State Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Teachers, A Sampler

Last Updated: October 10, 2008

This article appeared in the October 2008 Rural Policy Matters

Many states offer state-run programs to encourage residents to become teachers, usually of subject areas where a shortage of teachers exist. These programs fall into several general categories.

Conditional Scholarships: Many states attempt to increase the number of people who become teachers of certain subjects, and occasionally teachers in hard-to-staff schools, by offering conditional scholarships. Generally, recipients must meet specified academic requirements and “work off” the scholarship by teaching. Most states exchange one year of teaching service for one year of scholarship assistance. Scholarships usually convert to loans if the recipient does not fulfill the teaching obligation.

Scholarships for Racial/Ethnic Minorities: Several states are responding to the critical drop in the number of teachers of color by offering scholarships for students of color who wish to enter the teaching field. Most of these are conditional and convert to a loan if the recipient does not fulfill the teaching obligation.

Repayment Options: Many states make payments toward the student loans of teachers who work in shortage-area subjects or, less often, in hard-to-staff schools. These programs differ from federal forgiveness programs in several ways. Usually they begin making loan payments as soon as the teacher begins working (rather than waiting until the end of a five-year period). Often teachers of shortage-area subjects are eligible regardless of the income level of the school in which they work.

Some states offer unique programs. We’ve profiled several of these below. You can learn more about state programs by contacting your state’s education department. The American Federation of Teachers also maintains a website of state forgiveness programs.

Alaska: The Teacher Education Loan Program is a student loan forgiveness program explicitly for rural Alaskans who wish to teach in a rural school. Rural school districts must nominate the candidate. Recipients are eligible for up to $7,500 annually and 100% forgiveness. Rural communities are defined as those with fewer than 5,500 people and no road or rail connections to Anchorage or Fairbanks, or connected communities with fewer than 1,500 people.

Florida: The Critical Teacher Shortage Reimbursement Program provides tuition for teachers and other school employees to become re-certified in a critical shortage subject area.

Mississippi: Mississippi has a variety of programs in addition to scholarships and loan repayments. The Graduate Teacher Loan/Scholarship provides tuition reimbursements to full-time teachers enrolled in first-time master’s programs. The Mississippi Teacher Shortage Act of 1998 provides tuition assistance and funding for housing/moving expenses in exchange for working in designated school systems.

Montana: Montana’s Critical Quality Educator Shortages identifies subject area shortages and schools that are likely to have difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers. Teachers in these shortage areas and schools are eligible for loan repayment assistance. “Rural isolation” is one of three factors used in rating schools’ difficulty in attracting teachers.

Washington: The Future Teachers Conditional Scholarship and Loan Repayment program is a conditional scholarship/loan repayment program targeted to high school graduates, school paraprofessionals, and teachers seeking recertification in shortage-area subjects. The Alternative Routes to Teacher Certification Conditional Loan Scholarship program is designed to help school districts recruit teachers in subject matter and geographic areas with a teacher shortage. 

Read more from the October 2008 Rural Policy Matters.