There are several options to help cover your expenses and reduce your costs as a new teacher—including a few you might not have known about.
February 22, 2019
Getting your arms around the full financial picture of joining the corps can feel daunting. There are so many factors to consider as you are comparing regions and deciding where you want to teach—salary ranges, rent, and certification costs. On top of that, you may also have student loan payments to think about.
But the good news is you have several options for financial assistance—as well as lesser-known local incentives for new teachers—that can significantly reduce your start-up expenses. Here are the benefits you need to know about as you are weighing the financial implications of joining the corps.
As a Teach For America corps member, you will be a full-time, salaried employee of the district or school where you teach (not an employee of TFA). Once you begin teaching, it can take between 3-6 weeks after the start of the school year to receive your first paycheck.
This understandably can create financial strain as you try to cover the costs of travel, moving, testing, and certification fees. Teach For America offers transitional funding—including no-interest loans and grants—to enable corps members in all financial situations to cover their expenses during this time.
If you are open to teaching in any region without citing preferences, Teach For America offers a $3,000 signing bonus. Additionally, individual regions also offer unique financial incentives for joining the corps. Some examples include:
- The Greater Delta, Greater Tulsa, and South Carolina regions all offer a signing bonus for new corps members at the start of the school year.
- The Greater Tulsa region also partners with a local foundation to offer affordable housing options to corps members, based on financial need.
- The Dallas-Fort Worth region partners with a local apartment search firm to help new corps members find housing.
- Corps members teaching in Florida regions (Jacksonville and Miami-Dade) can apply for a state scholarship for attracting and retaining high academic achievers in the teaching profession.
These are just a few of the regions that offer additional perks for corps members. Visit the Where We Work page to learn more about the financial benefits offered in each region.
State Income Taxes
Some of the regions in which we place corps members are in states where there is no state income tax. That means if you relocate to a region in Washington state, Texas, South Dakota, Nevada, or Florida, a little less will be taken out of your paycheck, increasing your relative take-home pay.
This is something to keep in mind as you are comparing salaries across regions. Teaching in a region with a lower salary and no state income tax could mean your take-home pay is equivalent to--or even higher than--that of a region with a higher salary range and an income tax deduction. Be sure to look into specifics on a state’s income tax rates, or lack thereof, as you calculate your expected cost of living in a particular region.
Through Teach For America’s partnership with AmeriCorps, you may be eligible to receive federal funding to help pay off student loans and cover some of the costs incurred while earning your teaching certification. If you teach in a region that requires a master’s degree (or choose to pursue one), you can also use your AmeriCorps award to cover tuition expenses. After each successful year as an AmeriCorps member, you may receive an education award, typically between $5,300-$6,100.
AmeriCorps members may also be eligible for loan forbearance, which means you can postpone your monthly student loan payments while serving as an AmeriCorps member. AmeriCorps will also pay up to 100 percent of the interest that accrues on your qualified student loans (those provided through a federal or state agency) after each successful year as an AmeriCorps member.
Master’s Degree Tuition Discount
In addition to using the AmeriCorps education award to offset the costs of teacher certification, corps members may also receive a discount on tuition for their master’s program. Many regions—including Connecticut, New York, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Southwest Ohio, and others—partner with local universities to offer a master’s degree at a reduced rate. Compare regions to learn more about certification costs and available discounts.
Loan Forgiveness Programs
There are several federal student loan forgiveness programs specifically designed to help teachers ease the transition into the classroom by alleviating student loan debt. If you qualify, loan forgiveness programs can either forgive the balance you owe on loans and/or reduce your monthly loan payments while you are teaching.
Many states also offer loan forgiveness programs for teachers working in underserved communities. You can use this searchable database of state-specific programs to explore options that cover the regions you are considering.
Keep in mind that loan forgiveness programs are managed independently from Teach For America. You will need to research and apply for these programs on your own.
Scholarships & Grants
There are a ton of scholarships and grants for educators—especially if you teach in a high-needs school. These funds can be used to help pay for certification costs, purchase classroom supplies, or provide enrichment opportunities for students.