The teaching profession will continue to be an employment growth sector in the foreseeable future. Education policies and benchmarks will evolve as social changes and technological developments happen, but teachers will always be needed.
Teachers will Thrive
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that demand for teachers will grow by 17 percent through the year 2020. These jobs require completion of a four-year degree, certifications specific to areas of competency and passing the requisite licensing tests. Indeed, aspiring to teach entails commitment, sacrifice and financial resources.
How to Finance a College Education
Much has been said about the mounting costs of obtaining a college degree. This is a critical concern for would-be teachers faced with the prospect of financing a college education geared towards a job not normally associated with top-tier pay.
The FAFSA Process
Typically, students headed to college will start the search for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is the form that most colleges use to determine eligibility for financial aid. The review will include detailed information on family income, assets, size of the family of number of household members currently enrolled in college, prospective colleges and other identifying information.
The application can be completed online at FAFSA.gov. Alternatively, the form is downloadable at StudentAid.ed.gov for offline completion and filing or requested by phone at 800-4-FED-AID. The form should be submitted on or shortly after January 1 of the year that financial aid is requested. Complying with all FAFSA requirements earlier rather than later improves the odds of obtaining federal aid.
The amount of financial aid will depend on the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) determined using a formula that analyzes FAFSA information provided. Students will be advised of their entitlement with a Student Aid Acknowledgement report that will also be sent to the preferred colleges.
The federal aid package is paid directly to the student’s college of choice to cover tuition and other fees. Room and board may also be covered if the school provides these services. These payments are disbursed at intervals linked to the school calendar. Any leftover amounts will be paid to the student by the school for other educational expenses.
Federal Pell Grants are awarded based on need defined by family income and other demographic considerations. Students enrolling in their first bachelor’s degree or who are entering a post baccalaureate program for teachers may be considered for a Pell Grant. The amount awarded is linked to the EFC and the cost of attending the school. The grant will also vary for full-time and part-time students.
Students younger than 24 years old must submit their parent’s financial information regardless of who is paying for college costs.
Academic Competitiveness Grant and the National SMART Grants
To encourage students to major in math, science, engineering, technology and certain foreign languages that are critically needed in the world economy, the Department of Education launched two new grants in 2006. The Academic Competitiveness Grant can be applied to expenses for the first and second years. The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant are for students entering their third or fourth year of college.
Service grants are available for survivors of military personnel who served in Afghanistan and Iraq in the post 9-11 era. Students must be younger than 24 years old on the date of their parent’s demise. They must not qualify for a Pell grant to avail of a service grant. The award could amount to $5,500 annually.
The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) program awards as much as $4,000 annually to qualified students who agree to spend four years teaching in a school that serves a low-income community. The award is good for four years for undergraduate students and two years for postgraduate students enrolled in an eligible program. The Education Department determines program eligibility through its nationwide list of teacher shortages.
Failure to meet the conditions of the Agreement to Serve will result in conversion of the grant amount to an unsubsidized federal Stafford loan. Interest will accrue starting the date the grant money was first awarded.
Stafford loans are government-subsidized loans that can provide additional financing when grant money is inadequate or unavailable. These loans have fixed interest rates that are lower than unsubsidized college loans. The rate is 3.4 percent compared to 6.8 percent interest for unsubsidized financing. The rate will remain unchanged for the life of the loan. Stafford loan applications will not require a credit check.
Loan Management after Graduation
For most student loans, amortization begins after graduation. Aspiring teachers will face additional credentialing and licensing requirements to find employment in the school systems. At this point, it may be wise to explore how student loan payments can be deferred or forgiven.
Forbearance or Postponement by Deferment
It is possible to ask loan servicers for forbearance by invoking active military service or showing proof of financial hardship. Payments can be deferred for a specified time and interest will not accrue.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
State and local agencies may offer loan mitigation in exchange for employment in high-need areas that include teaching positions in underserved schools or economically depressed areas. The American Federation of Teachers provides a state-by-state directory of these programs.
Loan Forgiveness for Volunteer Participation
The Segal AmeriCorps Education Award is awarded to AmeriCorps volunteers. The award can be used to pay off student loans.
Volunteering with the Peace Corps will be beneficial because this nonprofit agency pays a stipend and a transition allowance. They will also facilitate a write-off of at most 70 percent of student loans.
Those who participate in Volunteers in Service to America affiliated with AmeriCorps, can also earn a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award or a stipend that can be used to pay off student loans.
Loan Cancellation for Public Service
Teachers who are public servants for at least 10 years can have the balance of their student loans written off provided the loan is not in default. This opportunity exists only for those with an income-based repayment plan for their federal student loans.
The future is bright for aspiring teachers. There are many incentives for those who are determined to pursue this career path. Research the financing options carefully to avoid overwhelming student loans.