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Pennsylvania Teaching Shortage Areas and Federal Loan Forgiveness Programs

A list of teacher shortage areas for the 2017-18 school year is posted on the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s website along with the names of school districts, charter schools, career and technical centers and intermediate units. Teachers who teach in subject shortage areas and/or schools may be eligible for loan forgiveness and/or deferment. 

​Subject Shortage Areas ​School District with Greatest Shortages ​Area Vocational comprehensive Technology Centers, Charter Schools with Greatest Shortages ​Intermediate Units with Greatest Shortages
  • ​English as a Second Language PreK-12
  • Fine and Performing Arts PreK-12, including Art, Music, and Theater
  • Foreign Languages PreK-12, including all world languages
  • Hearing Impaired PreK-12
  • Sciences 7-12, including Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Space Science, General Science, and Physics 
  • Mathematics 7-12
  • Special Education PreK-12
  • Speech and Language Impaired PreK-12
  • Visually Impaired PreK-12
  • Vocational Education 7-12
  • Allentown City
  • Council Rock
  • Hazleton Area
  • North Penn
  • Philadelphia City
  • Pittsburgh Public
  • ​Frederick Douglass Mastery CS
  • Lehigh Career and Technical Institute
  • Mastery CS-Gratz Campus
  • Olney Charter HS
  • York County School of Technology
  • Capital Area IU 15
  • Central Susquehanna IU 16
  • Lancaster-Lebanon IU 13
  • Montgomery County IU 23
  • Chester County IU 24
  • Delaware County IU 25

PDE encourages prospective PreK-12 teachers to consider teaching in any of the above shortage areas and locations prior to taking out student loans, as these may qualify for loan forgiveness1 or deferment.2 Teachers who are already teaching in any of these fields or locations may benefit from loan forgiveness or deferment as well.

Federal Loan Forgiveness or Deferment Programs are Described Below:

  1. Federal Perkins Loans and Direct Loans
    Teachers who borrowed money under the Federal Perkins loan or the Direct loan program after July 23, 1992, may qualify for cancellation of up to 100% of their loan—that is, up to $17,500. To be eligible, borrowers must be full time teachers of mathematics, science, foreign languages, bilingual education, or any other field of expertise where PDE has determined there is a shortage of qualified teachers. (34 CFR 674.53(c))

    Loans are cancelled according to this schedule:
  • 15% for year 1 of qualified teaching; 
  • 15% for year 2 of qualified teaching; 
  • 20% for year 3 of qualified teaching; 
  • 20% for year 4 of qualified teaching; and 
  • 30% for year 5 of qualified teaching.

    The Federal Student Aid Office offers descriptions of the Perkins Loan Program. Descriptions can also be accessed at Benefits.gov. A full explanation of the “Teacher Cancellation” program for Federal Perkins Loans is also available from the Federal Student Aid Office. A direct loan is a federal student loan, made through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, for which eligible students and parents borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education at participating schools. Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans are types of Direct Loans. The Federal Student aid office also provides a brochure comparing these loans.
  1. Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program
    Students who have received TEACH Grants are able to fulfill their teaching obligations under this program by teaching in a high-needs field or in the subjects included on the Pennsylvania’s shortage area list. (34 CFR 686.12(d))

    TEACH Grants provide up to $4,000 per year, for a maximum of $16,000, for undergraduate students and up to $8,000 for graduate study.3 Recipients must maintain a 3.25 grade point average and agree to teach for at least four years in a high-needs field at an elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families. The Federal Student Aid site describes the TEACH Grant Program and provides a Program brochure. Students should be aware that these grants convert into Federal Direct Unsubsidized loans for recipients who do not fulfill their agreements. See StudentAid.gov for more information.

    Many colleges and universities in Pennsylvania participate in the TEACH Grant Program. Financial aid offices at each institution provide information about whether a school participates in the TEACH Grant Program, and which programs of study are eligible.

  2. Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program (Stafford and SLS Loans)
    Some teachers who borrowed money under a Stafford Loan or Supplemental Loans for Students (SLS) loan may defer payments for up to three years, while teaching full time in a public or nonprofit private elementary or secondary school in a teacher subject shortage area. Borrowers who took out one of these loans on or after July 1, 1987, and before July 1, 1993, may qualify for deferment of loan repayment at any time within the life of the loan(s). (34 CFR 682.210(b)(3)(iii); 34 CFR 682.210(q))

    Federal Direct Loan borrowers who owed an outstanding balance on a Federal Stafford Loan or a Federal SLS loan before July 1, 1993, may also qualify for this deferment on their loan under 34 CFR 685.204(j).

1 Also known as loan cancellation or loan discharge means that the borrower does not have to repay any balance remaining on the loan.

2 Also known as loan forbearance means that the borrower can temporarily postpone making student loan payments or temporarily reduce the amount of each payment.

3 As a result of federal budget sequestration, the U.S. Department of Education requires that all awards be reduced by 6.9% for grants awarded between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017.