Many TEACH grant recipients forced to repay funds as loans, study reveals
- A new government study indicates that thousands of teachers who received TEACH grants worth up to $4,000 a year are being forced to repay those funds with interest due to failures in communications by grant management companies or minor errors in paperwork, NPR reports.
- According to the new government study, roughly 12,000 — or one-third — of grant participants whose grants were converted to loans said they had either already met the service requirements or were likely to meet them.
- Massachusetts State Attorney General Maura Healey is suing Fed Loan, a third-party loan servicer hired by the U.S. Department of Education over its handling of these grants, but is facing potential roadblocks from the Trump administration.
The TEACH grant program was designed to help schools by drawing more teachers to high-need fields and high-need schools. According to this recent government study, the grant has, in part, accomplished this. More than 58% of TEACH grant recipients said the grant was influential in their decision to choose these options. When recipients first received their grants 89% thought they were very likely to fulfill the service obligations. However, by the time of the recent survey released this month, 63% of those surveyed had their grants converted to loans either because they had not met the service requirements or the annual certification requirements.
This is not the first time problems have been reported. An earlier study, conducted in 2015, indicated that, in the first six years of operation, nearly 40% of students who had been awarded TEACH grants had already had their awards converted into unsubsidized loans. Additionally, according to 2013 budget reports, the Department of Education fully expected 75% of these grants to be converted to loans. Clearly, there are issues with both the structure and administration of this program — problems that often cause the teachers who schools need most to feel betrayed.
School administrators need to be aware of these issues and work with teachers as best they can. They may need to send out reminders to teachers to fill out the annual paperwork if they are grant recipients — a small step that may prevent bigger issues later. They also need to realize that the TEACH grant program provides very little incentive to draw teachers to the field or to their schools. Instead, their focus may be better used on other recruitment and retention strategies that can help teachers meet immediate needs as they move to a new location or begin to repay student loans.