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Finances in California

30 minutes
30 minutes

Finances in California

This guide explains options for financial aid, scholarships, loan forgiveness and more.

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If you have any questions about financing your education, visit the Support page or check in with admissions staff.

When you apply to a teacher preparation program (TPP), make sure to take finances into account. You have options when it comes to funding your education.

Here’s to financial prowess!

Financial Aid & Scholarships

There are four types of financial aid that you should look out for: grants and scholarships, student loans, loan forgiveness and work-study. 

  • Grants and scholarships do not need to be paid back, and are generally awarded based on need or merit. 
  • Student loans need to be paid back (subsidized ones will not accrue interest while you are enrolled in school, but unsubsidized ones will).
  • Loan forgiveness is an option for teachers who serve in particular types of schools for a set period of time. Check with your teacher preparation program to learn how to qualify for this substantial perk.
  • Work-study allows students with financial need to earn money towards educational expenses by working part-time (usually on campus). 

If you qualify for work-study, try to align your job or service with your area of study. That way you can get hands-on experience while paying for your education.

Program or University

Check to see if your program offers financial aid. If it does (most do), be prepared to provide your name, Social Security Number, email and other background information.

Some forms will include a Release of Information, which authorizes specified individuals, agencies and organizations access to your form details. It’s a good idea to consent to this section to be considered for some financial aid programs.

Federal Government

To support new teachers, Uncle Sam provides options for paying for your education.


Whether you’ve already earned your bachelor’s degree or you’re still in college, you’ll remember the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Income, family size, parent age and more are taken into consideration when awarding federal grants to graduate students.

Deadline: You can submit your FAFSA application any time after October 1st. The deadline for California is March 2nd. Remember that some forms of aid are first-come-first-serve, so apply as soon as you can!

See the FAFSA website for more details. Our friends at withFrank.org also make it easy to understand and apply for your FAFSA.


Offered by the Federal Student Aid office (the same one that runs FAFSA), the TEACH Grant offers up to $4,000 a year to students targeting the teaching profession. However, not all TPPs participate in the TEACH Grant Program

To remain eligible for your TEACH grant, after you complete you program you must:

  • Teach in a high-need field for low-income families.
  • Teach at an elementary school, secondary school or educational service agency that serves students from low-income families.
  • Teach for at least four complete academic years within eight years after receiving the grant.

If you don’t play by the rules, your TEACH Grant turns into a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, which means you have to pay it back with interest.

See the TEACH Grant website for more details.

Loan Forgiveness

If you use federal loans to pay for your program, you may be able to have all or part of your loans forgiven without paying them back. The federal government offers teachers, especially those who serve in high-need subjects or schools, several ways to apply for loan forgiveness.

Check out these programs on the Federal Student Aid website:

  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness cancels up to $17,500 in federal loans for highly qualified math and science teachers who work for five years in low-income schools. If you teach a different subject, you may still be eligible for up to $5,000.
  • Perkins Loan Cancellation wipes out up to 100 percent of your federal Perkins loans for teachers at low-income schools or who teach math, science or other high-need subjects.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness cancels the remaining balance of your federal loans after 10 years of on-time payments while working full-time in public service fields, including teaching.

California State Programs

The California Student Aid Commission administers its own set of scholarships and grants for California residents. While their awards primarily support undergraduate education, both the Cal Grant and the Middle Class Scholarship may provide aid you can use for your TPP.

  • If you received a Cal Grant as an undergraduate, you may be eligible for additional funding for your credential program. 
  • The Middle Class Scholarship for applicants with income and assets less than $171,000 provides funds for students attending California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) programs, including teacher credential programs. Award amounts vary, so check with your school’s financial aid office if you think you qualify.

TEACH.org and Other Organizations

If you're applying to a partner teacher preparation program in California, you're eligible to apply for a $1,000 scholarship and up to $100 in fee reimbursements from TEACH.org. Click the links for more details.

There are hundreds of other scholarships and grants out there, ranging from small awards to full-ride scholarships. Browse our national list of financial aid and scholarships.

Accept or Decline Financial Aid

Don’t forget: You’re not finished once you hit that submit button!

You will receive a financial aid letter (or email) with the details of your award offer(s). You will have to officially accept these offers to receive them. Remember, schools can offer you loans, which you have to pay back with interest. You can always reduce the dollar amount of the loans or completely decline them if you do not need them.

Once you formally accept your financial aid package, you will be one step closer to securing your teaching certification.

Application Fee

When you submit your TPP application, pay the fee. It’s usually around $55. There may also be a separate fee for the specific program you are applying to. Make sure you read all documentation carefully.

In some cases, there may be fee waivers available, so take this opportunity to check in with an admissions officer or program official to see if you apply.

Did you know? You can get up to $100 towards application and testing fees from TEACH. See if you qualify.