- Under a new plan released over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will give thousands of teachers whose TEACH grants were incorrectly converted to tens of thousands of dollars in loans a chance to prove they were following the program's guidelines. They will also receive credit for those years and have their loans converted back to grants, NPR reports.
- The decision follows an investigation by NPR, the department's own review of the program, and a letter to the department from 19 U.S. senators. In addition, teachers who can prove they've fulfilled all four years of service teaching a high-need subject in a low-income school under the grant's requirements could see their debts erased entirely.
- For most educators, the problem with the program boiled down to issues with paperwork, as the form was called "too complicated and confusing" by the department itself, sent to outdated addresses, had to be completed over the summer when principals whose signatures were required were often on vacation, and often faced deadline issues in general.
For the educators impacted by these TEACH grant issues, the cost of one little error was often tens of thousands of dollars in loan debt and headaches for their administrators, who often tried to verify to loan servicer FedLoan that these educators had indeed completed the paperwork ahead of deadline and even tried to fax it from their schools. It's not alone when it comes to ED programs that have been deemed unnecessarily complicated, either — one need only look to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for further evidence.
In a time where teacher shortages are common, especially in the high-need positions in low-income schools that the TEACH grant program is meant to benefit, these complications can only serve to exacerbate issues. If, for example, a prospective teacher's decision on pursuing the profession is swayed by whether that grant funding is available and they see that many have had their grants converted to loans over minor issues, they may not be as likely to enter the field. And a shallower recruitment pool would do no one any favors in the long run, when these educators are ready to take the experience they've gained to similar schools or beyond.
While the turnaround on fixing these errors won't be immediate, it's welcome news for the teachers affected and could signal a simplification of other ED programs in the long run.