What Is a TEACH Grant?

The TEACH Grant Explained

An elementary school teacher in a classroom
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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. If you don’t complete your end of the deal, the grant converts into a loan that must be repaid with interest.

The TEACH grant can be a great resource for those pursuing a career in teaching but it’s important to fully understand the service obligation so you don’t face surprises down the road. Learn more about what you should know before accepting a TEACH Grant.

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. If you are approved, you will need to undergo counseling to learn about your service obligation. Also, you must sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve or Repay. Then you’ll receive a disclosure explaining the award amount and your school’s disbursement dates. Your school will apply your TEACH Grant in more than one installment by crediting your account, paying you directly, or both.

When you graduate or stop attending your higher-education program, you’ll be required to complete TEACH Grant exit counseling. Additionally, you must meet the minimum requirements for federal student aid and teaching service obligations.

If you don’t complete your service obligations, your TEACH Grant will be converted into a direct unsubsidized loan. You will need to complete TEACH Grant conversion counseling, and begin repaying your loan with interest that accrued from the date of your first disbursement. Under certain circumstances, you may request a reconsideration for a TEACH Grant that was converted to a loan. Your TEACH Grant provider can assist in that process.

Requirements for the TEACH Grant

There are two groups of requirements for TEACH Grant applicants: student aid and service obligations.

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
  • Register with the Selective Service (most male students)
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress as defined by your school
  • Show you’re qualified to obtain higher education
  • Sign the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) certification statement

Teaching Service Requirements

The TEACH program requires you to meet the following teaching parameters:

  • 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 (updated annually).
  • 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.
  • Four years of service: You’ll have to work as a full-time teacher for four years in a qualifying school teaching a qualifying subject. 
  • 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.

There are exceptions to the eight-year limit. For example, if you earn your bachelor’s degree then enroll in a master’s program, you can request to suspend the eight-year period until you finish your graduate studies.

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. Further, when you graduate or if you withdraw from school, you must 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 offers forgiveness of federal direct loans if you work for a qualifying employer (including the government or a not-for-profit organization) and make 120 qualifying payments. 

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program forgives up to $17,500 of federal direct and unsubsidized, and subsidized or unsubsidized Stafford loans. To qualify, you must work as a full-time teacher for five consecutive years at a low-income elementary/secondary school or education agency.

The Pell Grant offers 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.

While the TEACH Grant can be a helpful source of aid for some, teachers have various other ways to potentially lower the costs of college.

Federal Perkins Loans Teacher Cancellation

Federal Perkins loans can be canceled in full after five years of full-time service under the following conditions: You teach in a public or nonprofit elementary or secondary school serving low-income families; you work as a special education teacher; or you teach a subject in demand due to a shortage of qualified teachers in your state.

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 offers 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.

While the TEACH Grant can be a helpful source of aid for some, teachers have various other ways to potentially lower the costs of college.

Key Takeaways

  • The TEACH Grant is a form of federal student aid that helps prospective teachers pay for qualifying higher-education programs.
  • A TEACH Grant requires the recipient to fulfill a service obligation or repay the money with interest.
  • The service obligation requires teachers to become highly qualified and teach high-need subjects at low-income schools full-time for four years.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

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

For the grant to remain a grant that doesn’t have to be repaid, you’ll need to complete the required four years of teaching within eight years of your graduation (or the date you ceased to be enrolled at the college 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 often 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 have to repay with interest.