For anyone even thinking about joining Teach For America, one of the big questions that most people have is about the loan repayment incentive. Here is a little bit more information for anyone who has this on their mind.
1. Who does it?
The program that provides the loan repayments is call AmeriCorps. It is, by its own definition, a "Corporation for National or Community Service".
2. When do you get it?
After your first year in Teach For America, you will receive your monetary award. I received my first one in July after my first year teaching. The amount of money you receive depends on your hours served. Since you will be serving more than enough hours as a teacher, you will get the maximum award. South Carolina teachers receive 5,500 dollars per year for the 2 years served. That $ number can fluctuate year to year but is usually in that ball park.
In one person's lifetime, they may receive 4 education awards, however no one person is allowed to receive more than the amount of 2 full year terms. That means that I can receive 4 education awards, but if I got $5,500 the first time and $1,500 the second time, my 3rd award could not exceed $4,000. 11,000 is the most (right now-that can change each year) that a person can receive total (more info here). If you already have received 3 education awards, you will only be eligible for one of your two years in Teach For America
3. Other AmeriCorps benefits.
In addition to your education award, AmeriCorp will allow you to put all government student loans into forbearance, and they will pay any interest that accrues on those loans while in forbearance.
4. How can I use the money?
You can use your money on any approved loans and places of higher education. With my first award I spent $3,500 on graduate school classes and $2,000 went to help pay off my student loans. You can hold the money in your account for years and go back to school if you would like. The money HAS to go towards loans from school or more schooling... No exceptions. Unless you get a special waiver, your money can not be passed on to your children.
5. Am I guaranteed the money if I get into TFA?
No. If you don't attend the required events that AmeriCorps requires (service days and professional development meetings) then you can forfeit your award. Teach For America will plan these events and tell you when to attend. You can also loose your award if you Teach For America Regional staff don't do their job right! I know that sucks. Alabama Corp supposedly lost their ability to give money to their Teach For America teachers during the 2014-2015 school year because they didn't do their paperwork correctly!! They are not kidding about that paperwork!
The loan repayment program is definitely a positive to joining Teach For America, but I hope it isn't your only reason. If you don't have a heart to teach and a heart for kids, the money won't be worth the pain you will put yourself through! Think hard about applying!
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I am 25 years old with a 2 year old son and a wicked handsome husband living in Birmingham, Alabama.