How to get your teacher prep paid for
How to get your teacher prep paid for
You know what you want to teach and what program you want to attend. You’re excited to start your educator prep, but then you see the tuition bill. How will you pay for this? Is a teaching program worth the cost?
The short answer is yes. Becoming a teacher doesn’t just mean getting your degree and teaching certification. You’re also starting a career that makes a difference in your community, offers a competitive starting salary, includes health and retirement benefits, and comes with professional growth built into the job.
When deciding how to pay for your teaching program, remember that you have options. Below, we guide you through some of the best ways to pay for your program.
If you have any questions about your teaching program applications, reach out to a TEACH for Houston coach or admissions staff for support. We’re here for you.
- Learn about grants and scholarships.
- Get informed about FAFSA.
- Look for work-study options.
- Already working for a school district? Get support from your employer.
- Consider public service.
- Explore federal student loans.
- Find out about loan forgiveness.
- Accept or decline your financial aid offer.
- Get reimbursed for your application fee.
- Explore more guides.
Ask about free money
The first step is to look for grants and scholarships from your program. If your teaching program is through a college or university, you may be eligible for funds from the government through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The great thing about these resources is that you don’t have to pay them back. And you may qualify for more than one type of free financial aid!
What are grants and scholarships?
Grants are free money for school. They come from the government or local organizations and colleges. These resources are often awarded based on things like income and family size. Some grant providers, such as small businesses and nonprofits, may have specific eligibility requirements.
The TEACH Grant
The TEACH Grant—which is unrelated to TEACH for Houston—is a specific type of award 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 entering the teaching profession.
To qualify for a TEACH Grant, you’ll need to:
- Choose a program that participates in the TEACH Grant Program.
- Teach in a high-need field.
- 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.
Sticking to these guidelines is important. Otherwise, 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.
Scholarships are generally awarded to students who have met specific qualifications in areas such as athletics or academics. You may also find scholarships based on the major you choose, your career choice, your hometown, or other factors like race, culture or gender identity.
Scholarships can come from schools, government aid or private organizations. There are hundreds of scholarships and grants out there, ranging from small awards to full-ride scholarships.
Where can I find grants and scholarships?
If you fill out the FAFSA and apply to a college, you are automatically considered for many scholarships—but not always. Check with your teaching program or financial aid office, and search websites like Fastweb, Niche and Scholarships.com to find more scholarships in your area.
The TEACH for Houston Scholarship offers $1000 for future teachers. Check out the TEACH for Houston Scholarship page to learn more!
What to know about FAFSA
Typically, you’ll need to attend a certification program through a college or university (rather than an alternative certification program) to be eligible for FAFSA financial aid.
To find out if your program is eligible, you can use the FAFSA school search tool. You can ignore the Federal School Code question; you don’t need to know yours to use the tool.
You can submit your FAFSA any time after October 1st in the year before you enroll in your program. For example, if you wanted to enroll in the spring of 2022, you could submit your application after October 1st, 2021.
The FAFSA priority deadline for Texas is January 15. Remember that some forms of aid are first-come-first-serve, so apply as soon as you can!
Sharing your personal information
When you apply for financial aid through FAFSA or through your program, you’ll need to provide some background information. You’ll likely be asked for your name, Social Security Number, email and other general background information.
Release of information
Some forms also include a Release of Information, which lets specified individuals and organizations access your form details. You’ll need to sign the ROI before your information can be shared.
It’s a good idea to consent to this section, because it lets you be considered for additional financial aid programs.
Look for opportunities to earn while you learn
Most colleges and universities offer work-study options, which let you earn money by working part-time (usually on campus).
You can often match your work-study position to your program. For example, you may be able to work as a teaching assistant or academic tutor. That means you can get hands-on instruction experience while you pay for your education.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can choose to do an alternative certification program like a teacher residency.
Residency programs let you earn a stipend while you student teach. You’ll work alongside a mentor teacher while you earn your certification. Learn more about teacher residencies at the TEACH for Houston Residency Programs page.
Check out benefits where you work
If you already work in a school district, you might want to continue working full- or part-time while attending your teaching program. Many Houston-area school districts offer programs with discounted tuition for employees who are looking to get certified. It’s worth finding out if your school offers extra support for employees who are pursuing a teaching certification.
Your school may have scheduling support, such as revised work hours. For example, if your normal work hours are from 8:00am - 4:00pm, your school may let you leave a few hours early in order to attend class.
Schools may also provide tuition vouchers for staffers who are choosing to continue their education.
These vouchers can cover anywhere from 3 to 6 credit hours. Not only does the assistance benefit you, it’s also a great way for schools to retain skilled and driven employees. Consider asking about these programs in your next interview.
Consider public service
Programs like AmeriCorps offer opportunities to serve in a community and explore career paths. Some AmeriCorps programs provide hands-on experience for people who want to become teachers.
AmeriCorps partners with other programs and organizations that can help you transition into the classroom after your service.
Time commitment and financial benefits
AmeriCorps positions can last for three months or longer. You’ll earn a small stipend during the program.
AmeriCorps alumni also receive an education award after completing their term of service, which ranges from about $350 to over $6,000, depending on how long you worked for AmeriCorps. You can apply that money to any educational expenses, including tuition and student loans!
Click to learn more about AmeriCorps.
Learn about federal student loans
While taking out loans may not be your favorite option, federal student loans have some perks.
- No required credit. Unlike private student loans, federal student loans received through FAFSA don’t require a credit check or a lengthy credit history. This is beneficial for most students, as credit can often be the one thing that keeps you from being approved for certain financial benefits.
- No payments during your program. Typically, you won’t need to start paying off your loans until after your program ends. That means you can focus on your classes without worrying as much about cash flow.
- Federal subsidized loans will not accrue interest while you are still in school.
- Fixed interest rates prevent loan amounts and interest from drastically increasing overnight.
- Payment deferral lets you temporarily place payments on hold after you graduate. While interest may still accrue, this option is ideal if you haven’t yet started your new job. And you may qualify to have your loans forgiven! (See below.)
Click to learn more about federal student loan options.
Subsidized vs. unsubsidized loans
What’s the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans?
Subsidized loans will not accrue interest until after you graduate (usually six months after). Unsubsidized loans start to accrue interest as soon as you receive the money.
Can I get loans through my program?
Schools and teaching programs may also offer you loans, which you have to pay back with interest. Some programs offer subsidized loans, while others do not (remember, subsidized loans do not accrue interest while you’re completing your program, while unsubsidized loans do.)
You can always reduce the amount of loans you accept, or completely decline them if you don’t need them
Keep in mind that most programs are through colleges and non-profit organizations, so they keep fees low. If you’re considering a for-profit teaching program, make sure to ask about interest and fees.
Explore loan forgiveness programs
If you do 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 (these programs generally do not apply to private loans through your school).
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 if you have worked full-time in public service fields, including teaching.
Remember, you've got options to pay for your teaching program. It all comes down to what works best for you financially.
Accept or decline financial aid
Don’t forget: You’re not finished once you hit that submit button!
If you attend a college or university, you’ll get a financial aid letter (or email) with the details of your award offer. You will have to accept these offers to receive them.
Once you formally accept your financial aid package, you’ll be one step closer to your teaching certification!
Get your application fee covered
As you explore financial aid, you’ll probably apply to some teaching programs. Most programs require a fee—usually around $50—when you submit your application.
Some programs offer fee waivers based on income. Check with an admissions officer to see if you qualify.
You can sign up for TEACH Fee Reimbursements to get up to $100 toward eligible application and testing fees! When you sign up for Fee Reimbursements, we’ll also set you up with a personal coach and checklist app, to help you keep track of application steps and deadlines.