Finance your Education
Financial aid is a concern for students across the board, regardless of their goals or areas of interest. For many, getting into a college or university of their choice was challenging, but paying for that education is where the real challenge lies.
Thankfully, help is available--you just need to know where to look. The government and private institutions offer an abundance of resources to make financing your education easier and more affordable. There are five primary areas of financial aid that can help you achieve your goals of becoming a great teacher:
- School Aid for Teachers
- Government Aid for Teachers
- Scholarships for Teachers
- Loans for Teachers
- Non-Profit Organizations
The first place you want to look when thinking about how to finance your education is the school you will be attending. Most schools have some amazing resources available to their students, and if you ask in the right places (such as the Bursar’s office, the Financial Aid office, or Student Services), you’ll be surprised by what you find.
Many schools offer their own scholarships and grants that can be both need or merit-based. Some schools even have their own loan programs, and others partner with private lending companies. Individual programs within your school, such as teaching programs, can offer their own aid in addition to the support your school offers. All it takes is a couple of emails or phone calls to discover all the possibilities your school has available.
The government is the largest source of financial aid for students pursuing higher education. Government aid is need-based, as opposed to merit-based. Instead of looking at your performance in school, the government assesses how much you need financial aid. They award grants and loans based on your family’s income (yours alone if you file taxes independently) and how much you can reasonably contribute to the cost of your education.
The United States Department of Education publishes an annual guide, Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid ,you can access on the Department’s Federal Student Aid website. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will assess your eligibility, the amount of your award, your expected contribution, and how much will be distributed between grants and loans (any loans you incur can be managed through the National Student Loan Data System).
Most schools require you to complete both the FAFSA and the CSS Profile, along with the school’s own financial aid application. The Department of Education also provides a directory of each State Higher Education Agency so you can find out what kind of government aid is offered by your state. The Department of Education lists the type of student loans available through federal programs, which include the Stafford Loan and Perkins Loan.
There is also the Graduate PLUS Loan specifically for graduate students. These loans are of particular interest to aspiring teachers, because they may be eligible for loan forgiveness under The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. For teachers who fulfill certain requirements, which often include teaching in a high needs area for a period of time, the government will defer, cancel, or pay for part of your student loans. Note: as of July 1, 2010, no more federal loans are made through the Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) program. All new loans are made through Federal Direct Loans. However, if you were issued a FFEL loan before July 1, 2010, your loans may still be eligible for loan forgiveness.
- Direct Subsidized Loans (Undergraduates) 3.86%
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans (Undergraduates) 3.86%
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans (Graduate or Professional Students) 5.41%
- Direct PLUS Loans (Parents and Graduate or Professional Students) 6.41%
Scholarships are available through private institutions, usually nonprofit, who specialize in the advancement of education and the training of highly qualified educators. Scholarships are available at the national, regional, or local levels. With so many great scholarships available, it helps to know where to look for the one that’s right for you. The Internet is probably your most useful tool: There are tons of great scholarship databases available. The College Board, which administers the SAT, is a great resource. Sallie Mae has College Answer, a tool that helps students with all aspects of college planning. Some other excellent databases are:
- Certification Map
- Broke Scholar
- Adventures in Education
- Go College
- Classes And Careers
- Peterson’s College Search
These databases are general scholarship directories, though you can customize your search specifically to teaching, and sometimes even to the exact state or school you’ll be studying in. The Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California has a detailed list of some scholarships for teachers you can look into. With any scholarship, it’s very important to make sure you meet the eligibility requirements set by each one you apply for, and that you keep an eye on deadlines and allow yourself ample time to complete the application.
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Generally, students apply for private loans once they’ve exhausted all other options. The purpose of a private loan is to pick up where the rest of your financial aid leaves off. Private loans can also cover additional costs that scholarships and federal aid do not cover, such as housing, transportation, meals, books and supplies. Private loans are funded by private institutions, primarily banks or lending companies, rather than the government. Private loans can be a little bit trickier than federal loans.
Each institution sets its own terms and conditions, and private loans are subject to credit checks. Also, many loans require a cosigner with good credit to sign with you if your credit isn’t sufficient. Cosigners essentially promise to pay for your loan in the extreme case that you are unable to. Some loan payment plans allow you to defer payment until after you graduate, while others let you begin paying interest while you are in school. Lenders work with you to determine the most convenient monthly payment plan, as well as how long you will have to pay back your loan, and your rate of interest.
Certain nonprofit organizations are excellent ways to continue your education and training as a teacher, secure a teaching job, and oftentimes finance part of your education. The most widely known of these programs is Teach for America, an organization that recruits recent graduates to teach in high-needs schools. Teach for America members train rigorously to become teachers, and are then placed in a high-needs area for two years, during which time they receive the full salary and benefits of a teacher, and financial support for their education.
Teach for America members are eligible for an AmeriCorps Educational Award of up to $10,700 which can go towards the repayment of certain student loans, or the financing of continuing education. Members may also be eligible for loan forbearance, or payment of interest on loans.
There are also regional programs that pay for your training, certification, testing and licensure, and then assign you to teach at a school district within that region. Programs like this include:
There are also groups like the Alliance for Catholic Education, whose Service Through Teaching Program pays for a Masters in Education from Notre Dame. Participants in the Alain Locke Initiative are compensated to earn a Master of Science in Education from Northwestern University to go on and teach in inner city schools.