The Department of Education Is Converting Teacher Grants to Loans

It sounds like a pretty sweet deal: College students planning to become teachers can receive up to $4,000 annually in grants if they agree to teach in high-need areas. But those same teachers say that the Department of Education is shortchanging them – and they want to know why.

TEACH Grants” are designed to help fill the gaps in K-12 education in the United States and improve access to quality education for people in low-income communities. They also provide an added incentive for prospective teachers to pursue their dreams.

Grant recipients have to spend four years teaching subjects like math and science in predominantly low-income schools. They also must provide proof to the Department of Education that they’re teaching — or preparing to teach — in these school districts.

And this is where teachers say they’re running in trouble: Their grants are being converted into loans because the Department of Education claims they aren’t completing the paperwork correctly. In fact, according to the government’s own research, nearly two-thirds of grant recipients have been deemed ineligible.

The policies surrounding TEACH Grants are extremely rigid, as is often the case with government funds. Thus, a teacher who feels unfairly penalized may have little to no recourse — and that means making loan repayments, even if they’re meeting the conditions for the grant.

The consequences are serious, too. Imagine having a large monthly expense you weren’t expecting added to existing student loan debt.

Teachers say they’re stymied by inaccurate information, delays in receiving paperwork from the Department of Education and other issues that make it difficult for them to meet the requirements. They claim that even while upholding their end of the bargain, the grants are coming back to haunt them — with interest.

Given that teacher pay is poor in many areas of the United States — especially in low-income districts — and that some people with limited resources pursue these grants specifically because it’s the only way they can afford teacher training, this presents a dangerous situation for education at-large.

Lest you think this is a Trump administration problem, it’s not — or, at least, not entirely.

The Government Accountability Office actually took a look at the program in 2015 and raised concerns about teachers being improperly penalized. Some of the factors cited included lack of understanding about annual certification requirements — people didn’t realize they needed to confirm their employment — but the GAO also identified cases involving paperwork errors.

The Department of Education maintains that it provides annual training and reminders about certification, designed to ensure that teachers aren’t automatically penalized, but some teachers claim their paperwork was delayed or rejected — even when they were conscientious about sending in their certifications.

Critics point to another issue: The Department of Education is outsourcing administration of the program to a separate entity, FedLoan — and it isn’t always meticulous about recordkeeping, processing and communication because the overall compensation per borrower is quite low.

The practice of rolling loans over to other agencies is common in the financial industry, as well as the government, and it can be bad for borrowers, who may not know who is in charge of administering grants or loans, how to contact them or whether they’re meeting their responsibilities.

Failing teachers with a program like this could be dangerous: People considering TEACH Grants to fund their education may decide against it if they fear being unfairly penalized — and that could ultimately exacerbate teacher shortages in key areas.

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education

35 comments

Marie W
Marie W1 months ago

Thank you.

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Lesa D
Lesa D7 months ago

thank you s.e. ...

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Angela Gardner
Angela Gardner7 months ago

Betsy DeVos was appointed by President Trump to take all of the public funding from the Department of Education and put it in the hands off for profit industry as much as possible. The for profit charter school and college industry and the finance industry that provides loans for education. Remember that is how her brother Eric Prince a private company owner/Department of Defense contractor has gotten so wealthy. Like President Trump, Betsy DeVos wants to keep all of the money in the family and their rich friends. They want to dismantle the government.

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Winn A
Winn Adams7 months ago

:-(

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Winn A
Winn Adams7 months ago

DeVos needs to go!

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Muff-Anne Y

So wrong.

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R7 months ago

Thank you for posting.

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Debbi W
Debbi W7 months ago

W!hat is next? Charge educator for the privilege of teaching? A Grant and NOT a loan. It is a gift, of sorts and there is no repayment. The Dept of education definitely needs to be more transparent. It sounds like they have made a great many educators' live hell. I'm sure DeVos is making it worse.

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Carole R
Carole R7 months ago

Teachers hardly make a living wage now.

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Anne M
Anne Moran7 months ago

Poor teachers,, they always get the short end of the stick..

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