Teaching Profession

A Look at How Teachers Are Coping With Their Student Loan Debt

By Liana Loewus — July 21, 2017 2 min read

When it comes to paying off student loans, many teachers say they’re scared about their ability to do so and confused about their options, according to a recent survey by National Public Radio’s education team.

“I feel like I’ll be making the last payment from my grave,” said one teacher.

NPR asked a nonscientific sample of 2,000 teachers about their borrowing experiences. “We decided to take a look at student debt among teachers specifically, because we see it as a crossroads of several big trends: chronic concerns over teacher pay amid calls to improve teacher quality; the rising cost of higher ed; the increasing reliance on loans to pay for it; and changing policies from the Trump administration,” wrote education blogger Anya Kamenetz.

About 1 in 4 of the teachers said they were “terrified” about their student loans.

The NPR team chalked up these borrowing issues to a few key factors.

Teachers are feeling more pressure to get masters’ degrees. A Kentucky teacher said that, with the meager salary bump given once a teacher receives the degree, “without interest, it would take 10-plus years to pay off a loan for a master’s degree.”

One teacher who owed less than $25,000 said, “I made unnecessary payments for 1½ years before I realized that my program didn’t require those payments.”

In addition, teacher pay continues to suffer compared to professions requiring similar education (though some have argued that teachers are actually overpaid) and college and graduate tuition rates are on the rise.

As for repayment, “There are many programs designed to ease the heavy debt burden of teachers, whether for undergrad or graduate school. ... While these programs help tens of thousands of teachers, the sheer number of options has become a problem in itself, according to the teachers we surveyed as well as some researchers.” writes Kamenetz.

Plus, a key loan forgiveness program could be on the rocks. President Trump’s budget proposal called for eliminating Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which erases some teachers’ loan balances after 10 years working in public schools.

See NPR’s write-up.


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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.