Teacher Shortage: Federal Loan Forgiveness Bill Introduced

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On the heels of rural teacher loan forgiveness legislation recently signed in Wisconsin, Congressmen Mark Takano (D-CA) and Richard Hanna (R-NY) have introduced bipartisan federal legislation to improve teacher recruitment and retention by making loan forgiveness options more accessible to educators. The bill is a response to a national teacher shortage that is making it difficult for school districts to fill open positions. Enrollment in teacher preparation programs dropped by 30 percent between 2010 and 2014.

There are two primary federal loan forgiveness programs available to teachers. The Stafford Student Loan Forgiveness (SSLF) program provides debt relief after five years in the classroom, and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program discharges any remaining debt after 10 years of public service, including teaching. Teachers are currently not permitted to simultaneously qualify for both programs. Achieving eligibility for a full discharge of their loans through PSLF requires teachers to serve an additional decade after qualifying for the SSLF program – a total of 15 years.

The Teacher Debt Relief Act would incentivize teachers to enter and remain in the classroom by allowing their classroom service to concurrently qualify for both loan forgiveness programs.

“Under current law, teacher loan forgiveness programs are not well-aligned and as a result create duplicitous and conflicting standards that make it challenging for teachers to receive repayment assistance,” Rep. Hanna said. “The commonsense fix this bill makes to existing debt relief programs will ensure that they work better for young, talented teachers eager to enter the workforce and serve in high-need communities throughout our country, like in Utica and Binghamton, New York.”