The U.S. Department of Education (ED) today announced changes to the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program, the only federal student aid grant program that directly benefits teachers working in high-need fields and underserved schools. ED implemented the changes as the Biden-Harris Administration proposes further enhancements to the program through the American Families Plan, which would double the annual grant amount, increase program flexibilities, address high grant-to-loan conversion rates, and ensure better outcomes for teachers and students.
“Our teachers are champions of students’ potential and stewards of their success. Respecting and honoring teachers who serve students with the greatest needs also requires that we ensure these educators receive the support to which they are entitled from this important federal program without having to jump through unnecessary hoops,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The changes announced today deliver much-needed improvements to the TEACH Grant. And, through the American Families Plan, even greater investments will be made in the program to strengthen teacher pipelines into the profession, support teacher retention, and address critical teacher shortages so that every child across America can be taught by well-prepared and outstanding educators.”
About the TEACH Grant Program
The TEACH Grant Program provides grants of up to $4,000 each 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 requires recipients to agree to complete four years of teaching in a high-need field and underserved school as a condition for receiving the grant.
For each year that a TEACH Grant is awarded, the recipient must complete online counseling that explains the terms and conditions of the grant and sign an agreement in which the recipient agrees to teach at a school or educational service agency that serves students from low-income backgrounds, and in a high-need field.
Before today, if a recipient did not complete the required four years of teaching within an eight-year period—referred to as the service obligation—or submit the required documentation within eight years after graduating from or otherwise stop attending the school where the TEACH Grant was awarded, the TEACH Grant was converted into a Direct Unsubsidized Loan that must be repaid in full. The loan included interest accumulated from the grant’s disbursement date.
Program Changes Now in Effect
The TEACH Grant Program rules now provide greater flexibility and processes remove pain points grant recipients previously experienced navigating the program. Among the regulatory changes taking effect today:
- TEACH Grant Exit Counseling is required, and the counseling will inform recipients that the TEACH Grant servicer, FedLoan Servicing, will now send detailed annual notifications to recipients that include service obligation requirements and timelines, documentation reminders, accrued interest estimates, and explanations about the reconversion process.
- TEACH Grant recipients will no longer have their grants converted to loans if they do not certify that they have begun teaching or intend to begin teaching within 120 days of graduating or withdrawing from school, and there is no requirement for recipients to certify their intent to teach within 120 days of graduating or separating from school.
- If TEACH Grant recipients do not certify at the end of each year of teaching completed, their grants are not converted to loans until they do not have enough time to complete the required four years of service within the eight-year deadline.
- ED expanded the reasons that a TEACH Grant recipient’s service obligation may be suspended for a period of time and a TEACH Grant recipient may teach for less than a full academic year, but still receive credit for the full academic year.
- ED simplified program requirements to allow TEACH Grant recipients to group together undergraduate and graduate service obligations, when possible.
- The reconsideration process is now open to all TEACH Grant recipients whose grants have converted to loans.
- The program changes provide additional relief for recipients whose TEACH Grants were converted to loans in error.
In addition to the TEACH Grant Program changes, ED’s office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) launched new and improved digital forms and resources to help guide and inform TEACH Grant recipients. FSA updated existing TEACH Grant counseling features and the Agreement to Serve or Repay and added a new counseling feature, TEACH Grant Conversion Counseling. This counseling feature provides information about the conditions under which a TEACH Grant is converted to a Direct Unsubsidized Loan.
American Families Plan Proposals to Enhance the TEACH Program
The Biden-Harris Administration introduced TEACH Grant Program enhancements as part of the American Families Plan that build on the improvements implemented today, while continuing to address teacher shortages in high-need fields such as special education, career and technical education, science, technology, engineering, and math. The proposed plan also aims to increase the access that students from low-income backgrounds and students of color have to comprehensive teacher preparation.
The American Families Plan would double the TEACH Grant amount from $4,000 to $8,000 per year for juniors, seniors, and graduate students, in addition to the $4,000 students would receive in their freshman and sophomore year. The plan also aims to increase access to the program by removing the grade point average requirement and expanding it to early childhood educators that go on to serve in programs that disproportionately serve students from low-income backgrounds. Increasing the award amount will align the grant with the average cost of undergraduate education and ensure that teacher candidates have access to comprehensive programs that support effective teaching and that they can enter and remain in the profession without burdensome loans or debt. These changes are expected to increase the number of recipients by more than 50 percent to nearly 40,000 in 2022. In Academic Year 2019–20, nearly 27,000 students at more than 740 institutions received awards through the TEACH Grant Program.
The American Families Plan would also reduce the repayment burden on recipients who do not complete their service requirement through reforms including:
- Not capitalizing interest upon conversion to a loan;
- Reducing the amount that converts to a loan for years of service completed; and
- Allowing promotions into schoolwide roles (e.g., principal) in a high-needs school to count toward the service obligation.
Finally, the American Families Plan would ensure better outcomes for recipients and the students they teach by phasing in quality guardrails on program eligibility based on grant recipient outcomes.
The program changes are now reflected on the TEACH Grant Program page at StudentAid.gov/teach and on the TEACH Grant loan servicer’s website. The servicer will contact grant recipients affected by the program changes.
In addition to doubling the TEACH Grant award, the American Families Plan (AFP) includes proposals to support teachers and build a diverse teacher pipeline. The plan includes $2.8 billion in investments in Grow Your Own programs and year-long, paid teacher residency programs, which have a greater impact on student outcomes, teacher retention, and are more likely to enroll teacher candidates of color. Additionally, the AFP targets $400 million for teacher preparation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and minority-serving institutions and $900 million for the development of special education teachers. The AFP invests $2 billion to support programs that leverage teachers as leaders, such as serving as mentors in high-quality mentorship programs for new teachers and teachers of color. The AFP will also support over 100,000 current teachers in answering the call to support their school communities by earning additional certifications in high-demand areas like special education and bilingual education. Learn more about the American Families Plan at WhiteHouse.gov.