New rules kick in today that will help aspiring teachers pay for college and complete a years-long overhaul of the federal TEACH Grant program — from a bureaucratic bear trap that hobbled thousands of teachers with unfair student loan debts to a program that may actually make good on its foundational promise: to help K-12 educators pay for their own education in exchange for teaching a high-need subject, like math, for four years in a low-income community.
"The changes announced today deliver much-needed improvements to the TEACH Grant," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. "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."
In Dec. 2018, the Department of Education under Secretary Betsy DeVos committed to overhauling the program and, last summer, posted its more flexible revisions. Among those changes that go into effect today, teachers will no longer have their grants automatically converted to loans if they fail to submit annual certification paperwork. Instead, with eight years to make good on a four-year teaching requirement, teachers won't have their grants converted to loans until completion of the required service is no longer feasible.
The rule changes to the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program were outlined by the U.S. Department of Education nearly a year ago but only go into effect today. And they are the culmination of a story that began several years ago, when the Government Accountability Office, followed by an NPR investigation, revealed that the program's strict paperwork requirements — what Cardona calls "unnecessary hoops" — were tripping up teachers who were keeping their end of the deal.
In accordance with the program's old rules, if a teacher did not submit annual paperwork on time documenting their teaching service in a qualified school, their TEACH Grants were automatically converted into loans that must be paid back with interest. Teachers who tried to appeal this conversion were given little recourse and told the process was not reversible.