Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Teacher Loan Forgiveness... or Unfairness?

It sounds like a great program, right? With all the dedicated underpaid teachers who work many more hours over what our salary is worth, teachers deserve a break right? And it's not to say that we hate our job, or that other professions are not important. We truly love and care about our students. Teachers are missionaries, as someone once told me.

When I heard about the teacher loan forgiveness program, I was truly excited. You can receive forgiveness of $5000 off student loans for teaching 5 years in a Title 1 School. For teaching science math, or special education can receive forgiveness up to $17,500. "Why didn't I teach Math?", I said. But certainly with a lifetime of $12,000 of loans, minus $5000, the benefit of that math was no question.

So I waited until the right time to turn my application in. I met all the eligibility requirements, or so I thought. One requirement is that you must be highly qualified, meaning being certified in your state or pass the licensing examination. Another requirement, is that you must have taught 5 consecutive years in a Title 1 School and started teaching before 2004.

I received my notification letter a few days ago. It said I did not qualify because I had loans before October 1, 1998. My first loan was received in September 1998. What does that October date have to do with anything. Why did you have to wait til after October 1998 to begin your studies as a teacher. Are the younger teachers more worthy of the loan than the older? The majority of my loan was spent on earning a master's degree. Only 1/8 of the balance was spent on my bachelor's before 1998.

So frustrated, as I was I decided to do some research on this. I checked the original application. under eligibility requirements. "To qualify for up to $500 loan forgiveness... you must not have had an outstanding balance on a FFEL or Direct Loan as of October 1, 1998. "Outstanding balance," well what the heck does that mean? I have never missed a loan payment, even though I was a student before 1998, and not required to pay on my loan then before graduation. I also checked the history of my student loans to see what was paid to me and when. I also checked for the documentation for the enactment. I also checked to see if anyone else's application had been turned down. I was relieved to know, that I was not the only one feeling the frustration. I found this thread at Teachers.net.

So I ask you, what to do next. I will not stand aside, without my voice and others being heard. America's gas prices are too high! Our jobs are being lost. Our teachers are overworked and unappreciated!