Federal Student Loan Repayments for Teachers May Get Reboot

A new bipartisan bill in Congress would streamline loan repayment for teachers in high-need schools. The "Teacher Loan Repayment Act of 2015" would replace several teacher loan forgiveness and cancellation programs, such as the TEACH Grant.

Under the new program, the federal government would pay $250 toward a teacher's student loans each month for the first two years of teaching. That would rise by $50 each month over the course of the next several years, reaching as much as $400 monthly. The maximum amount of student loan repayments made for any one person would be $23,400. If a student's monthly payment were less than $250, the difference would go toward paying off the principle of existing loans.

The purpose of the bill, said the authors, would be "to encourage highly qualified individuals to enter and continue in the teaching profession, and to ensure qualified effective teachers are encouraged to work in high-need schools," such as Title 1 schools, where at least 40 percent of children come from low-income households.

If it's passed, the bill would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965. It's not retroactive; it would only apply to loans going forward.

Supporters who have signed onto the bill include Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Mark Warner (D-VA), as well as Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Richard Hanna (R-NY).

"Evidence over the past several years makes it clear that existing student loan repayment programs have failed to encourage a high number of teachers to work in low-income classrooms," said Hanna in a prepared statement. "As a result, Title-I schools have continued to face difficulties in recruiting and retaining skilled teachers. By consolidating the failed crop of existing loan repayment programs into one streamlined, accessible program with clearer incentives and fewer bureaucratic hurdles, educators will have greater access to federal support and low-income schools will be able to effectively recruit and retain quality teachers. While we will all benefit from having tax dollars spent on a more efficient program, with additional teachers in the classrooms of lower-income school districts, students will be the ultimate winners."

The initiative has earned the support of Third Way. "While well-intentioned, today's federal loan assistance options for teachers fall short due to their overly-complex qualifications and back-loaded benefits," said Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, director of the centrist think-tank's social policy and politics program, in the same statement. "Having a set monthly loan payment for teachers that grows larger over time will serve as an important tool for both attracting and retaining great teachers in the classrooms that need them the most."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.