TEACH Grants: What’s New
Attention, current and future teachers! The U.S. Department of Education (ED) enhanced the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program. We’ll discuss what’s changing, but first, here’s a quick overview.
The TEACH Grant Program provides grants of up to $4,000 a year to students who are completing or plan to complete course work needed to begin a teaching career. Unlike other federal student grants, the TEACH Grant Program requires recipients to agree to complete four years of qualifying teaching as a condition for receiving a TEACH Grant.
For each year a TEACH Grant is received, recipients must complete the Initial and Subsequent Counseling and the Agreement to Serve or Repay on StudentAid.gov in which they agree to teach
- as a highly qualified teacher,
- at a school or educational service agency that serves students from low-income backgrounds, and
- in a high-need field.
If a recipient does not complete the required four years of teaching (i.e., the service obligation) or submit the required documentation within eight years after graduating from—or otherwise leaving—the school where they received a TEACH Grant, the TEACH Grant is converted into a Direct Unsubsidized Loan. That loan must then be repaid in full, including the interest that accumulated from the date the grant was disbursed (paid out).
Why the Changes?
TEACH Grant Program regulations required recipients to submit a certification or attest to their intent to complete the service obligation each year no later than Oct. 1. Recipients were also required to certify that they had begun teaching or intended to begin teaching within 120 days of completing their relevant programs of study. Failure to submit the certification or the intent to complete the service obligation within those time constraints resulted in TEACH Grants being converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
Over the course of managing the TEACH Grant Program, we discovered that recipients who were successfully upholding their end of the bargain were having their grants prematurely converted to loans because of late—or a lack of—documentation. That’s why we took action to improve the process and fulfill our commitment to reward TEACH Grant recipients for pursuing teaching careers and contributing to the development of the country’s youth, our future.
On July 1, 2021, ED’s office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) implemented changes to the TEACH Grant Program to provide recipients additional benefits and flexibilities. These changes simplify processes for recipients so they can focus on fulfilling their teaching service obligation.
Now, TEACH Grant recipients do not have to certify that they have begun teaching or intend to begin teaching within 120 days of graduating or withdrawing from school.
Similarly, we removed the requirement that recipients certify (or attest to) their intent to complete the service obligation each year no later than Oct. 1. TEACH Grant recipients only have to submit four completed teaching certifications within the eight-year service obligation period. We expect grant recipients to submit their teaching certification after completing each academic year; however, if they do not, we will not convert their grants to loan until they do not have enough time to successfully complete the four-year service obligation within the eight-year window.
Through these TEACH Grant Program changes, we also eliminated some of the conditions by which a TEACH Grant recipient might have multiple service obligations; whenever possible, we’ll group undergraduate and graduate service obligations together. Along with that, the TEACH Grant Program changes expand the reasons a recipient’s service obligation may be suspended for a time and expand the reasons a TEACH Grant recipient may teach for less than a full academic year but still receive credit for that academic year. These flexibilities are meant to help grant recipients navigate their professional responsibilities and the realities of their personal lives while fulfilling the TEACH Grant Program requirements—that’s a win-win.
We also realize that keeping TEACH Grant recipients aware of their progress in the program is crucial to helping them make informed decisions. To that end, we’ve added information in the TEACH Grant Exit Counseling that informs recipients that the TEACH Grant servicer, FedLoan Servicing, is required to send detailed annual notifications to the recipients that include
- service obligation requirements, timelines, and documentation reminders;
- temporary suspension and conversion-to-loan conditions;
- accrued interest estimates; and
- reconversion process explanations.
Speaking of reconversion, (i.e., when loans are converted back to grants), the TEACH Grant reconsideration process is now open to all recipients, not just those who had their grants converted to loans on or after Oct. 1, 2019. For example, any recipient who had been teaching but hadn’t submitted a teaching certification form and whose grant was converted into a loan before Oct. 1, 2019, is now eligible for the reconsideration process. Likewise, a recipient who would’ve qualified for a service obligation suspension—such as a father on paternity leave—but who didn’t submit the suspension request and whose grant was converted into a loan before Oct. 1, 2019, can now request reconsideration.
Along with these changes to the TEACH Grant Program, we launched new and improved digital forms and resources to help guide and inform TEACH Grant recipients. We updated the Agreement to Serve or Repay and a number of TEACH Grant counseling features on StudentAid.gov.
We renamed The TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve to the Agreement to Serve or Repay. This form, which explains the terms and conditions for receiving a TEACH Grant, is updated to provide TEACH Grant recipients with clearer information about the program’s requirements.
TEACH Grant Initial and Subsequent Counseling provides students with detailed information about the program and its requirements. This feature is updated to account for changes to the certification requirements and the conditions that trigger a TEACH Grant conversion to a Direct Unsubsidized Loan.
TEACH Grant Exit Counseling is required for students who received a TEACH Grant and are graduating from their program of study or withdrawing from school. This exit counseling is updated to focus more on the terms and conditions of the TEACH Grant service obligation, the circumstances under which a TEACH Grant will be converted to a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, and the recipient’s repayment responsibility if the grant is converted to a loan.
We also added a new feature, TEACH Grant Conversion Counseling, that provides information about the conditions under which a TEACH Grant is converted to a Direct Unsubsidized Loan. This counseling helps prepare borrowers to begin repaying their new Direct Unsubsidized Loans by explaining the terms and conditions that apply to their loans, the impact of the loans on their overall loan balances, and options to help with repayment. TEACH Grant Conversion Counseling also explains the conditions under which customers can ask the TEACH Grant servicer to reconsider the conversion of their TEACH Grants to a Direct Unsubsidized Loan.
At FSA, we’re committed to improving TEACH Grant recipients’ experience and outcomes in the program.
Current and future grant recipients can view the detailed program changes at StudentAid.gov/teach and explore some of our other teacher-oriented financial assistance programs that may help them open new (classroom) doors to the future.
This article was written by Connor Collins from the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.