What Is a TEACH Grant?

The TEACH Grant Explained

An elementary school teacher in a classroom
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Definition

The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant is a federal aid program that helps teachers pay for their qualifying higher-education costs in exchange for fulfilling a four-year service obligation.

Key Takeaways

  • The TEACH Grant is a form of federal student aid that helps prospective teachers pay for college or graduate school.
  • A TEACH Grant requires the recipient to fulfill a service obligation or repay the money with interest.
  • In order to meet your obligation, you'll need to teach one or more high-need subjects at a low-income school full-time for four years.

Definition and Examples of the TEACH Grant

The TEACH Grant is a federal financial aid program provided by the Department of Education. It gives teachers up to $4,000 per year to pay for their post-secondary education in exchange for fulfilling a four-year service obligation.

Undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students can receive up to $16,000 over four years, while graduate students can receive up to $8,000 over two years. To get the full amount, you must be enrolled full-time in an eligible program at a participating school. 

How the TEACH Grant Works

The TEACH Grant exists to help aspiring teachers afford the costs of higher education while also filling high-need teaching positions at low-income schools.

Essentially, you get the grant while you're a student, and you agree to either repay the grant or work as a full-time teacher for four years within eight years of graduating from or leaving the school where you received your TEACH Grants.

After signing the agreement to either serve as a teacher or repay the grant, you’ll receive a disclosure explaining the award amount and when you'll receive the money. Your school will apply your TEACH Grant by crediting your account, paying you directly, or some combination of the two.

When you graduate or stop attending college or graduate school, you’ll have to complete TEACH Grant exit counseling. In exit counseling, you'll go over how you can fulfill your service obligation, options for temporarily suspending your obligation, and what happens if you don't meet your obligation.

If You Don’t Meet the TEACH Service Obligation

If you don’t complete your service obligations, your TEACH Grant will be converted into a direct unsubsidized loan. You'll have to repay the loan, including interest charged beginning the date that the grant was paid to you.

If your grant is turned into a loan, it can only be turned back into a grant if you satisfied your service obligation or the grant was converted in error.

Requirements for the TEACH Grant

In order to be eligible for a TEACH grant, you'll need to meet the requirements for federal student aid. You'll also need to work in a qualifying school or position after graduating.

Federal Student Aid Requirements

To be eligible for the TEACH Grant, you need to meet the basic eligibility requirements for federal student aid, which include:

  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Be a citizen of the U.S. (or an eligible noncitizen)
  • Have a Social Security number
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress as defined by your school
  • Be enrolled at least half-time so you're eligible for the Direct Loan Program
  • Show you’re qualified to obtain college or graduate school education
  • Sign the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) certification statement

Teaching Service Requirements

In order to meet the terms of the grant, you'll need to work as an elementary or secondary school teacher for four years. You'll also have to:

  • Work at a low-income school: Qualifying low-income elementary/secondary and education service agencies can be found in the Teacher Cancellation Low-Income Directory (TCLI Directory).
  • Teach in a high-need field: More than half of your classes must be in a high-need field, as per the Teacher Shortage Area Nationwide Listing, which is updated each year.
  • Be a highly qualified teacher: Teachers must meet various requirements to be considered “highly qualified,” which vary depending on whether you teach at a public or private school.
  • Complete service within eight years of graduation: In most cases, you’ll need to fulfill the four years of service within eight years of graduation.

Suspension of TEACH Grant Service Obligations

Although you normally need to complete your work as a teacher within eight years of graduating, there are some cases in which you can get additional time to complete your service.

Although it will depend on your specific circumstances, your obligation may be suspended if you:

  • Are enrolled in a program that is TEACH Grant eligible
  • Are working towards your certification as an elementary or secondary school teacher
  • Have a medical condition that is a reason to leave, as defined by the Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Have been called to federal or state active duty
  • Have a spouse who has been deployed by the military
  • You work or live in a federally-declared major disaster area

How To Apply for the TEACH Grant

If you’re interested in the TEACH Grant, check with the financial aid offices at the schools you’re considering to see if they offer it. Then complete and submit the FAFSA to apply. Your aid offer will let you know if your school of choice offers the TEACH Grant and the amount available to you.

Each year you accept a TEACH Grant, you’ll need to undergo TEACH Grant initial and subsequent counseling to learn about the details of the service obligation.

You’ll also need to sign the TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve or Repay for every TEACH Grant you receive. When you graduate or leave school, you'll need to complete the TEACH Grant exit counseling.

Alternatives to the TEACH Grant

There are other programs that can help teachers with higher-education costs.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program

The PSLF Program will forgive federal direct loans if you work for a qualifying employer, which includes the government and some not-for-profit organization, and make 120 qualifying payments. 

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

You may be able to have up to $17,500 in student loans forgiven through the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. Direct or FFEL subsidized and unsubsidized loans can be forgiven through this program.

To qualify, you must have worked as a full-time teacher for five full, consecutive years at a low-income elementary school, secondary school or educational service agency.

Federal Perkins Loans Teacher Cancellation

You might be able to have your Federal Perkins loans completely canceled after five years of full-time teaching. In order to be eligible, you have to teach in a school classified as a low-income school or teach a subject with a shortage of qualified teachers.

Private school teachers might qualify if the school is a non-profit.

Note

The Perkins loan program ended in 2017. However, the loans are still eligible for cancellation, provided borrowers meet the TEACH program’s requirements.

Pell Grants

The Pell Grant is not only for teachers or aspiring teachers. Pell Grants offer free aid to undergraduate students who haven’t yet earned a degree but demonstrate financial need.

Unlike the TEACH Grant, there is no service obligation. However, you will need to complete your education program and meet enrollment and academic performance requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

How many years do you have to complete your TEACH Grant service obligation?

In order to avoid repaying your grant, you’ll usually need to complete the required four years of teaching within eight years of graduating or leaving the school where you received your TEACH Grant.

Which fields are considered “high needs” for the TEACH Grant?

High-need fields are published on the Department of Education’s Teacher Shortage Area Nationwide Listing, which is updated annually. The list includes math, science, foreign languages, bilingual education, special education, and English language acquisition.

Do you have to repay the TEACH Grant?

You don’t have to repay the TEACH Grant as long as you meet all the requirements of the program’s service obligation. If you don’t, your grant will be converted into a direct unsubsidized loan, which you'll have to repay with interest.

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Sources
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  1. Federal Student Aid. "Receive a TEACH Grant To Pay for College."

  2. Federal Student Aid. "Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH Grant) Program," Page 3.

  3. Federal Student Aid. "Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH Grant) Program," Page 6.

  4. Federal Student Aid. "Complete TEACH Grant Exit Counseling."

  5. Federal Student Aid. "Teacher Loan Forgiveness."

  6. Federal Student Aid. "Federal Perkins Loan Program Provided Money for College or Career School for Students With Financial Need."

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