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Student Loans

Student Loans for Teachers

You’re not alone if you need to take on student debt to pay for a teaching degree. According to a 2021 National Education Association report, more than half of students took on debt to pay for college, with the average borrowed amount being $58,700.

Before you take out a student loan, it’s essential to understand your options. Here’s what to know about teacher student loans, including which type to consider first and how to apply.

LenderBest forOur rating
Department of EducationFederal student loansNot rated
College AvePrivate student loans5/5
Sallie MaeCosigners4.8/5
EarnestLarge loans4.7/5
SoFiMember benefits4.7/5
ELFIPersonalize support4.5/5

Federal student loans for teachers

If you want to study teaching, several federal loans can help you pay for school. Let’s examine your options.

Direct Subsidized Loans

Direct Subsidized Loans are available to undergraduates with particular financial needs. While you’re in school, the U.S. Department of Education pays for the interest on the loan. You can borrow up to $23,000 in Subsidized Loans as an undergraduate student.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

These loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students regardless of financial need. Unlike Subsidized Loans, you’re responsible for paying interest on the loan while you’re in school. Because they aren’t based on financial need, the federal government doesn’t subsidize or pay the interest. 

You can borrow $5,500 to $7,500 each year if you’re a dependent student. And if you’re an independent student, you can borrow $9,500 to $12,500 per year as an undergraduate student and up to $20,500 per year as a graduate student.

Grad PLUS Loans

Grad PLUS loans are available to graduate and professional students. Unlike Unsubsidized and Subsidized Loans, a credit check is required.

With a Grad PLUS Loan, you can borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance minus any financial aid you receive.

Parent PLUS Loans

Your parents can take out a Parent PLUS loan to help you pay for school. Similar to Grad PLUS loans, Parent PLUS loans require credit checks. If your parents qualify, they can borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance minus any financial assistance you receive.

Private student loans for teachers

After you exhaust your federal loan options, consider taking out a private loan to fill any funding gaps. Make sure to shop around to find the best deal for your situation.

Unlike most federal student loans, private student loans require credit checks. If you have poor credit or no credit history, you may need to apply with a cosigner with better credit.

Best for…
Rating (0-5)
Best Overall
Best for Cosigners
Best for Large Loans
Best for Member Benefits
Best Student Loan Advisors

College Ave – Best overall

LendEDU rating: 5 out of 5

  • Competitive interest rates
  • Choose your repayment term
  • 4 in-school repayment options

College Ave offers undergraduate and graduate student loans. Loan amounts range from $1,000 to up to your school’s cost of attendance, and you can choose repayment terms between five and 15 years.

Rates vary depending on whether they’re fixed or variable and whether you’re in an undergraduate or graduate-level teaching program. Expect to pay between 4.07% and 16.69% APR. 

Once you start making payments, make sure to pay on time. Late fees vary by the amount due and the number of days late, and they could add up fast. 

Sallie Mae – Best for cosigners

LendEDU rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Cosigner release after 12 months of consecutive on-time payments
  • Repayment options include deferred fixed and interest-only repayment
  • Get a decision within 15 minutes

Sallie Mae offers undergraduate and graduate loans to pay for your teaching degree. You can choose a 10- or 15-year repayment term and borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance.

Fixed and variable interest rates are available, with rates ranging from 4.50% to 16.70% APR. If you’re late making a payment, the fee is 5% of the amount due, with a maximum fee of $25. 

Earnest – Best for large loans

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Choice of loan terms
  • Grace period of 9 months after graduation
  • Skip 1 payment annually once you begin repayment

Earnest offers undergraduate and graduate loans with no fees. You can borrow as little as $1,000 up to your school’s cost of attendance. Earnest gives you a payment grace period of nine months after you graduate, but interest still accrues on the loan.

Aspiring teachers can use Earnest for undergraduate and graduate degrees. Rates start at 4.36% APR for fixed loans with a cosigner. 

Enrolling in automatic payments qualifies you for a 0.25% rate discount. Earnest doesn’t charge late fees if you miss a payment due date. 

SoFi – Best for member benefits

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Offers fixed and variable interest rates
  • No fees
  • Access to financial planning services and networking events

SoFi offers student loans with competitive rates and benefits, including financial planning services, networking events, and other unique rate discounts. You can borrow from $5,000 up to your school’s cost of attendance. Repayment terms range from five to 20 years.

You can submit an online application in a few minutes without affecting your credit score to see whether you’re eligible for a SoFi student loan.

ELFI – Best student loan advisors

LendEDU rating: 4.5 out of 5

  • Assigned a student loan advisor to assist with your borrowing needs
  • Checking your rate doesn’t affect your credit

ELFI (Education Loan Finance) offers a highly personalized lending experience with the support of a dedicated loan advisor. You can borrow from $1,000 up to your school’s cost of attendance. Repayment terms range from five to 20 years.

ELFI’s advisors guide you through the application process and help tailor your repayment plan to suit your financial situation, ensuring you get the support you need.

Are federal or private student loans better for teachers?

The U.S. government funds federal loans. Borrowers can get private student loans from private financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, and online lenders.

Because federal loans include benefits such as access to student loan forgiveness programs and income-driven repayment plans, we recommend you exhaust your federal loan options before considering private loans.

Federal student loansPrivate student loans
Credit check required?✖️✔️
Must fill out FAFSA?✔️✖️
May need a cosigner?✖️*✔️
Financial need-based approval?✔️**✖️
Income-based repayment options?✔️✖️
*Federal PLUS Loans might require an endorser, which is similar to a cosigner. **Direct Subsidized loans are awarded based on demonstrated financial need.

How to apply for student loans for teachers 

As you prepare to enroll in your teaching program, follow these steps to apply for your student loans. 

  1. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA): Fill out the FAFSA before the annual deadline to apply for federal student loans. The federal FAFSA deadline for the 2024 – 2025 academic year is June 30, 2025. Your state or the college you attend may have separate deadlines, so check with both.
  2. Gather your documentation: Here’s the information you’ll need to complete the FAFSA: tax returns (parents’ tax returns if you’re a dependent student), Social Security number (SSN) (your parents’ SSN if you’re a dependent), and your driver’s license number, if applicable.
  3. Wait for your award letter: Once you complete the FAFSA, your school will send you a financial aid award letter, which might include federal loans you qualify for. Then you can choose whether to accept the loan.
  4. Consider private student loans: Next, consider whether you want to apply with a private lender to fill in funding gaps. Gather quotes from multiple lenders before you choose the best one.
  5. Submit a formal application: After choosing a private student loan, you’ll need to complete an application. The process varies by lender, but you and your cosigner might need to provide the name of your school, tax returns, Social Security number, recent pay stubs, and the monthly amount you pay for housing.

Teacher student loan repayment 

Your monthly repayment amount is based on several factors, such as your repayment term, interest rate, and loan. 

But here’s what your payment could look like with the average educator’s $55,800 undergraduate federal student loan. (We assumed a 10-year standard repayment term and a fixed 4.99% interest rate.)

Loan balance$55,800
Monthly payment$592
Total interest paid$15,189
Total borrowing costs$70,989

To estimate your payments, use our student loan payment calculator.

Keep in mind: You may qualify for teacher student loan forgiveness programs, which can help defray borrowing costs.

For example, if you work for a government or nonprofit organization, you could qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Under this program, your remaining student loan balance is forgiven after you make 120 qualifying payments.

Recap of student loans for teachers

LenderBest forOur rating
Department of EducationFederal student loansNot rated
College AvePrivate student loans5/5
Sallie MaeCosigners4.8/5
EarnestLarge loans4.7/5
SoFiMember benefits4.7/5
ELFIPersonalize support4.5/5