What is a TEACH Grant?
The TEACH Grant is a very unique federal grant in that it is one of the few grants that graduate students can receive, and it’s only for teachers. It also requires you to complete a set number of years of teaching (your ‘service obligation’) or else the grant is converted into a loan retroactively.
The TEACH Grant program provides up to $4,000 a year for highly qualified students completing a teaching degree in a high-need program of study and at a low-income school district. Upon completion of your degree you will be required to work in an eligible teaching position for a minimum of four years of the immediate eight years upon graduation. If you choose not to teach in a high-need field or at an eligible institution your TEACH Grant will be converted into a loan retroactively, and you will be required to begin making payments on it.
How Do I Qualify for the TEACH Grant?
To be eligible for a TEACH Grant, you must meet the Basic Eligibility Criteria for federal aid programs and meet certain academic achievement requirements to qualify you as a ‘highly qualified’ teacher. Generally, if you maintained a cumulative undergraduate college GPA of at least 3.25 you can qualify for the TEACH grant in the first semester you begin your graduate studies. However, if your undergraduate GPA was below a 3.25, you could qualify for a TEACH grant in your second semester of graduate school by receiving at least a 3.25 in your first term. Additionally, you must be enrolled in a school that offers the TEACH Grant and be enrolled in a TEACH grant eligible program at that school. Not all colleges and universities offer the TEACH Grant, so it’s best to ask your financial aid office before enrolling if this is an important part of your graduate school financing plan.
A TEACH Grant eligible program is a program of study that prepares you for teaching in a high-need field and leads to a degree (master’s, certificate of advanced graduate standing or some bachelor’s degree programs). Current high-need fields include bilingual education and English language acquisition, foreign language, reading specialist, mathematics, science, and special education, as well as any other field that has been identified as high need and is included in the annual Teacher Shortage Area Nationwide Listing. Additionally, you must be employed and teach in your service area at a low-income qualified school district. To see if your current school district qualifies you can check the Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory. While the Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory is updated annually and school districts can be subject to change annually, it’s usually a fairly safe assumption that if the school you work at is on the list now that it will more than likely remain eligible in future years.
In order to fulfill the conditions of the grant, you must teach for a minimum of four years of the first eight years after completing your degree in a qualified school district in a high-need field. This is commonly called your ‘service obligation.’ You will need to report and certify your employment annually with your TEACH Grant servicer. The good news that most people don’t realize, though, is that if you do teach for your required four years in an eligible position, those four years also count towards your Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program if you are pursuing loan forgiveness. This means that you will be able to ‘double dip’ and both meet your service obligation for the TEACH Grant and have four years banked towards your loan forgiveness.
The TEACH Grant is an excellent opportunity for students pursuing teaching in a high-need field to help offset the costs of graduate school and should be considered a valuable resource. For more information on if your school offers the TEACH Grant, you should contact the financial aid office. As a result of the fact that this grant could convert into a loan, many schools will not award you a TEACH Grant without you submitting a written request to the financial aid office, so be sure to reach out to them if you are interested.
For more information, as well as the next steps required if you wish to receive the TEACH Grant, check out TEACH Grants on the StudentAid website.