The TEACH Grant is a grant program offered to undergraduate students who plan to become teachers, as the name suggests. To qualify, these students must agree to teach in one of several eligible, high-need subject areas; they are also required to teach for a minimum of four years in a school (low-income) approved by the Department of Education.
They must be hired by a low-income educational agency or school. Every year, graduates who received TEACH grants must verify that they are satisfying the requirements of the TEACH grant by providing documentation of their teaching position to the federal Department of Education.
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What is a TEACH Grant?
The TEACH grant is a special financial aid grant provided to students majoring in education. These students agree to teach in selected low-income schools in order to earn otherwise free money for their education. This requires them to complete annual TEACH Grant counseling and sign an annual Agreement to Serve (ATS) to obtain their grant money. The ATS contains information about their teaching commitment, along with penalties for not honoring their agreement.
Students who agree to serve in an eligible, low-income school or educational agency may teach at the elementary or secondary level, working off the grant funds they received while in school. This does not mean that they’ll be working for free, these teachers will be paid for their work, just as teachers who didn’t apply for a TEACH grant are paid. Provisions of the TEACH grant require recipients to teach for at least four years within the approved school where they were hired, or another eligible location.
To earn these grants, students must score higher than the 75th percentile on at least one portion of a college admissions test. Alternatively, they are required to keep their grades at or above a 3.25 cumulative GPA. Each school that is approved to offer the TEACH grant offers information on this program through their Financial Aid office.
What is an Agreement to Serve?
This is a document that you sign every year when you receive your TEACH grant. You’ll sign it on the TEACH grant web page, which also goes over the terms and conditions required to receive your TEACH grant. When you sign, you are saying that you agree to the conditions. You also acknowledge that if you don’t follow through with your service obligation, every grant you received will convert to a loan, with interest.
This agreement is legally binding in every state where it is signed. Everything is explained regarding your service obligation and how the grants may convert to a student loan. You’ll also learn about the repayment terms and conditions, along with your rights and responsibilities. When you sign your ATS, you agree to the terms regarding meeting your service obligation requirements. You also agree to repay all grant funds that convert to a student loan. Print out and file away every copy of every ATS that you sign for your records and future reference.
Who is Eligible for a TEACH Grant?
The TEACH grant program was established for students who plan to teach in low-income, underserved areas. Students agree to gain an education in one of several fields with a high level of need, which may shift due to changing teacher availability.
Because the Department of Education administers this grant program, it has established several eligibility requirements:
- Students must meet basic eligibility requirements for federal student aid
- Must be enrolled as an undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate student in a university which participates in the TEACH grant program
- Must fill out, complete, sign, and submit their FAFSA
- Must enroll in an education program eligible for the TEACH grant
- Must undergo TEACH grant counseling and understand the terms and conditions of the service obligation
- Must meet academic requirements (college entrance exam scores) or keep their cumulative GPA at or above 3.25 - Eligible students can visit their financial aid office to discuss each requirement
- Each year they receive a TEACH grant, they must sign the TEACH grant Agreement to Serve
How to Apply
As with other degree programs, students who need grant funding should submit their FAFSA before every applicable deadline. Students within the TEACH grant program are also required to go through and finish their initial grant counseling and sign their Agreement to Serve. For each year they receive a TEACH grant, they will also have to attend the counseling session and sign a new Agreement to Serve. They also need to send in a copy of their college admission test scores (which displays a percentile ranking). This must be sent to the office of financial aid for each school they are applying to.
The service agreement states your intention to serve and promise to pay, should you not satisfy the requirements of the grant. If you do not satisfy the grant’s terms, the grant will convert to a federal direct unsubsidized loan, complete with interest that accrues from each date the grants were awarded.
How Much Can I Receive?
Students who receive a TEACH grant are eligible to receive up to $4,000 annually. The Budget Control Act of 2011, or the sequester law, effectively reduces every student’s award amount from what they would otherwise have received. Between October 1, 2019 and October 1, 2020, recipient students’ award amounts are reduced by 5.9% from the amount for which they would have otherwise been eligible.
This means that, if they were eligible for the full $4,000 award, they will now receive a maximum award of $3,764. In the prior fiscal year, TEACH grant recipients saw their awards reduced by 6.2% (they received the maximum award of $3,752.) If the student isn’t eligible to receive the full amount, their actual awarded amount will be reduced by 5.9%.
Are All Schools/Programs Accessible with a TEACH Grant?
Education programs listed as TEACH grant-eligible include university and college programs of study that prepare students to teach as “highly qualified” teachers in high-need fields. These programs should culminate in either a bachelor’s, master’s, or a post baccalaureate degree. Community college students enrolled in two-year programs that allow students to move forward into a bachelor’s degree are also eligible. A post baccalaureate program offered by a university that provides a bachelor’s degree in education will not be eligible for the TEACH grant.
Students who are seeking programs that are eligible for the TEACH grant may find degree programs within the overall education department. However, an education program that is TEACH grant-eligible at one school may not qualify for the TEACH grant at another university. Students need to check carefully; even if a program does qualify to be TEACH grant-eligible, it may not have been designated as such. If students aren’t sure, they should ask the financial aid office at each school which they are interested in attending. The financial aid officer will be able to identify specifically which education degree programs have been designated TEACH grant-eligible. Online programs are eligible, but students should always verify that they programs they choose are designated before applying.
How Do I know if I can Get a TEACH Grant at my Program of Choice?
You should ensure you meet the basic criteria for eligibility as spelled out by the federal student aid programs. To determine your eligibility you should fill out and submit your FAFSA, determine which education programs are TEACH grant-eligible, and fill out the form for the TEACH grant.
Once you have been awarded a TEACH grant, you’ll go through and complete the required counseling, learn the terms and conditions of your service obligation, and sign the TEACH ATS. In every semester that you receive a TEACH grant, you’ll need to maintain a GPA of at least 3.25.
If you don’t meet every requirement of your service obligation, every TEACH grant disbursed to you will be converted to a direct unsubsidized loan. You will be responsible for repaying these loans in full; interest will be charged and accrue from the disbursal date of each TEACH grant provided to you. One part of this agreement is that you will teach in a low-income school in a high-need field.
What are the Requirements to Keep this as a Grant?
Every year, you have to complete several steps to maintain your TEACH grant:
- Fill out and submit your FAFSA by stated deadlines
- Prove you are a US citizen or an eligible noncitizen
- Enroll in the Department/School of Education at your college or university
- Take courses that are designated as TEACH grant eligible (this grant is one that specifies that you have to take specific classes for the grant; it also specifies the type of teaching job you must accept in order to keep the grant from converting into a loan)
- Study in a specific high-need field once you receive your grant
- Maintain academic requirements: score higher than the 75th percentile in your admissions testing or keep your GPA above 3.25
- Sign a TEACH grant ATS every year
After graduation, you must teach in the high-need field you studied in school. When you start looking for teaching jobs, you can read through the US Department of Education’s Annual Directory of Designated Low-Income Schools for teacher loan forgiveness benefits. As long as you teach at that school, or another approved institution, for the duration of your service obligation, your grant should remain as a grant. If you transfer to a school that isn’t designated as a low-income school, your grants will convert to a loan.
What Counts as a High-Need Field?
Here, you’ll have some latitude. The Department of Education has designated seven high-need fields in low-income schools. This is true all over the US.
These fields include:
- Special education
- Bilingual education/English language acquisition
- Foreign language
- Reading specialist
- Any other field identified as high-need by either the federal, state, or local government that has been placed into the yearly Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide Listing (Nationwide List)
One caveat: Your chosen high-need field must be included for the state in which you plan to teach at the time you start your qualifying teaching service or when you received a TEACH grant. Even if the field later loses the high-need designation in the state where you will be teaching, you will still qualify for your grant.
Here are a few more requirements to keep your TEACH grant while you are in school. More than one-half of the classes you plan to teach each academic year has to be in a high-need field. Even if your chosen teaching field is no longer in a high-need designation, you can keep your grant.
In California, additional fields include:
- Special education
- Mathematics/Computer Education
- Self-Contained Class
Can You Cancel Your TEACH Grant Obligation?
Yes, you can. Under three scenarios, you can temporarily suspend the eight-year period you have to complete your service obligation.
- Receiving orders to an active duty status for a period of longer than 30 days as a member of the US Armed forces, reserves, or under your status as a member of the National Guard - being called to full-time National Guard duty triggered by a call to active service in relation to a national emergency, military operation, or war will also affect your obligation
- If you develop a health condition designated as a qualifying reason for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Enrollment in a graduate program which makes you eligible to receive a TEACH grant. You are eligible to obtain a suspension of the eight-year period of completion of your service obligation you entered as a part of your undergraduate program.
- If you are or were a military member, you may qualify for additional Military Grants that can help you cover the cost of your education.
- Another grant you may want to look into is a federal grant called FSEOG.
Your service obligation is also eligible for cancellation if you die or become disabled totally and permanently.