Professional Development

Student Loan Forgiveness: Do You Qualify?

This resource lists federal loan forgiveness programs for Head Start teachers. Education staff and managers may use this resource to learn more about this important benefit.

Did you know there are programs available that will actually pay off all or part of your college loans? Yes, it's true! Under certain circumstances, the federal government will cancel or “forgive” all or part of an educational loan. This practice is called loan forgiveness.

These loan forgiveness programs are not widely advertised, so many Head Start education staff who are eligible may not be aware that they qualify. Those who do are eligible to cancel thousands of dollars owed on their federal student loans.

The good news is that the popular Federal Perkins loan program applies to all full-time Head Start education staff, and up to 100 percent of the loan may be forgiven over a five-year period. If you received a Perkins loan, you should contact the college or university that provided the loan to confirm that you are eligible based upon your service as a teacher or education service provider in a Head Start program. You can request the appropriate forms from the office that administers the Federal Perkins Loan program at your school. You may be asked to provide documentation to show that you qualify for cancellation. If the school confirms that you qualify, up to 100 percent of the loan may be canceled in the following increments: 15 percent canceled per year for the first and second years of service, 20 percent canceled for the third and fourth years, and 30 percent canceled for the fifth year. Each amount canceled per year includes the interest that accrued during the year.

If you received a Stafford Loan on or after Oct. 1, 1998, and you teach full time for five consecutive years in a low-income school, you might be eligible to have a portion of the loan cancelled up to $5,000. This applies to Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Stafford Loans, Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, and in some cases, Consolidation Loans. Private/non-federal loans are not included in the federal loan forgiveness programs. Stafford loans are administered by financial institutions who work in partnership with the Federal Student Loan program. You will need to contact the holder of your loan to request the appropriate forms for loan cancellation.

To qualify for Stafford loan forgiveness when teaching in a Head Start program, the state education agency in the state where you teach must include preschool as part of their elementary and secondary education program. You can locate the person to contact by viewing the Department of Education state directory. In addition, you must have demonstrated knowledge and teaching skills in reading, writing, early childhood development, and other areas of a preschool curriculum with a focus on cognitive learning.

The U.S. Department of Education's website is the best place to learn about federal student aid programs. If you wish to speak with a person regarding a financial aid question, you may call one of the telephone numbers provided below:

Telephone: 800-4-FED-AID (800-433-3243), Spanish speakers are available (se habla español)
TTY: 800-730-8913.