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Let’s be honest — you didn’t go into teaching to get rich. Unless you’re working for a private school or for-profit teaching service, you’re probably never going to earn the “big bucks.”

So why do you have to deal with such a big student loan debt when your salary doesn’t give you the money to pay it back?

Fact: Elementary teachers have an average starting salary of $33,000. Student debt averages $29,400 per student.

You can see why paying your student loans back can be problematic. What’s worse, even experienced elementary school teachers only make an average of $40,000 according to U.S. News and World Report.

Even after promotions and pay increases, it’s not going to get much better. Public school teachers at higher levels don’t do much better, either. So should you just give up and start applying for private jobs to get better pay? No way!

Why loan forgiveness is so valuable

Student loan forgiveness for public servants is the federal government’s way of giving people who are serving the community a break. You can consolidate your debts to lower your payments now, then the remaining balances are forgiven on your debts after you make 120 payments.

Basically, you need to enroll in a consolidation program first. Here’s how it works:

  1. You have to have federal student loans to qualify.
  2. You have to be able to prove at least partial financial hardship. This allows you to enroll in one of three programs designed for people who are struggling: (a) Income Based Repayment (IBR); (b) Income Contingent Repayment (ICR); (c) Pay as You Earn
  3. After you’ve made 120 payments (10 years) on the program, any remaining balance is forgiven – the debt is erased with no additional money needed and no credit damage.

Now here’s even more value: If you can prove severe financial hardship (i.e. you are below the federal poverty line for your state) then your payments are reduced to $0 on the program. So you pay nothing each month and it still counts towards your 120 payments.

This is extremely beneficial for teachers that work in particularly low-paying districts, as well as for single parents and even two-income families where both parents teach or the partner has an equally low-paying job.

Making sure you’re in an eligible public education field

Of course, you need to make sure you’re eligible for the program. You must be:

  1. A full-time employee (work at least 30 hours annually)
  2. Work for a nonprofit organization: (a) government organizations; (b) 501(c)(3) organizations; (c) private nonprofit organizations
  3. Work in one of the following fields: (a) public education; (b) early childhood education (including Head Start and state-funded pre-K)

Pop Quiz

True or false: Loan forgiveness for the public education sector only applies to teachers.

a) True

b) False

Reveal Answer

There is also loan forgiveness for school librarians and other school-based services.

a) False

Return to question

Focus on your students, instead of your student debt

The programs that make all of this possible are government programs, so it is possible to do this stuff on your own. But the paperwork can be tough to navigate and it’s critical that you don’t make any moves in your career that can jeopardize your eligibility for forgiveness.

This is where a student loan consolidation specialist comes in handy, because they do all the work for you, and at fairly low fees as long as you work with the right organization. We can help you connect with the right specialist.