Teaching can be an incredibly rewarding profession allowing you to make a difference in the lives of young people, each and every day. And with a growing population in the United States, the need for good teachers is constantly on the rise. For those with small children of their own, working as a school teacher can provide an extra benefit. When the parent shares the same schedule as their children, this can save on childcare and other expenses by not having to work when the children are out of school.
Becoming a teacher requires having a college education. And this can be a financial roadblock to some that can prevent them from realizing their dream of teaching. But there is help in the form of a federal government grant that is not available to other professions. The U.S. Department of Education offers a special grant program specifically for those that want to become teachers called a TEACH Grant. This grant is open to new students entering school as well as to those that already work as teachers that want to reenter college to earn a graduate degree.
A TEACH Grant will provide up to $4,000 per year to fund either an undergraduate or graduate school education. The TEACH Grant will issue a maximum of $16,000 to undergraduate students and $8,000 for those receiving graduate degrees. Students can use the program to fund both degrees, for an overall total of $24,000 in TEACH Grant funding. For those unable to pursue school full-time, grant funding is determined by credit hours and amounts between $1,000 and $3,000 per year can still be awarded to students only able to attend college part-time. There are some basic eligibility requirements to apply for a TEACH Grant. New students must score above the 75th percentile on the college admissions test. And for each year you reapply for funding, you must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher. You must also attend a school that participates in the TEACH Grant program to be eligible.
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant
The way the TEACH Grant program works is this. Grants are provided to students that are willing to work in a high-need field following graduation at a school or educational service agency that serves students from low-income families for at least 4 of the 8 years following graduation. So you cannot receive a TEACH Grant to fund your education if you are not going to teach in a high-need field and if you are not willing to work in an area that serves low-income children.
So what is considered a high-need field? Well, this can vary from state to state, but for the most part high-need fields are defined as being in bilingual education, foreign language, mathematics, science, special education or by working as a reading specialist. Other fields can be covered as well if a teaching shortage exists in a specific geographic area and will be listed in the Teacher Shortage Area Nationwide Listing, produced annually.
Be aware that you may be expected to relocate to fill a teaching need to complete your service obligation. But it may be possible that you already live in an area that is considered high-need, allowing you to stay where you live. To search current needs, you may want to check the Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory to see if your area is considered high-need. All schools that are operated by the Bureau of Indian Education or that exist on Indian reservations run by Indian tribal groups are considered low-income schools and qualify for the TEACH Grant program.
If you are selected to receive one of these grants, you will have to sign an Agreement to Serve or ATS and complete TEACH Grant counseling each year you receive funds to continue your education. This is to ensure that you understand your obligation to serve following graduation. This process can be accomplished on the TEACH Grant website. If for any reason you are unable to complete your service obligation, all TEACH Grant funding will be converted into a Federal Student Loan and interest will be charged from the date you first received a grant disbursement. It is highly advised that if you do not intend to follow through with your Agreement to Serve that you do not apply for TEACH Grant funding.
So if you are interested in using a TEACH Grant to pursue an education degree, you should start by contacting the financial aid office of the school you plan to attend. You will need to make sure that this school offers the TEACH Grant program and see what programs of study apply at that college. The school financial aid office will help you through the process of applying and also make you aware of other grants and financial aid that you can receive to help fund your education. For more information about the TEACH Grant program, check out the frequently asked questions on the TEACH Grant website.
For information about all federal student assistance offered by the Department of Education, read our article on federal student grants. In addition to the TEACH Grant, you may qualify for a Pell Grant or other federal funding to attend school to become a teacher.