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Becoming Señora Wallace: Paying for grad school

Here’s the breakdown:

$18,000 approx. cost of UW Masters in Teaching Program (including my additional pre-requisites)
– $4,000 approx. aid received from my AmeriCorps Education Award after taxes
– $8,000 TEACH Grant
———
$ 6,000

Wait, that sounds slightly affordable… There has to be a catch, right? Right.

TEACH Grant recipients must agree to teach for four years in a “high-need field” in a designated low-income school within eight years of graduating from their master’s program. If the recipient does not fulfill this four-year service agreement, the grant will be converted into an unsubsidized loan with retroactive interest.

Fortunately for me, foreign language falls into the “high-need field” category, and I can’t ever see myself teaching anywhere but in a low-income school.

Still, accepting this grant is a big deal. The strings attached to the TEACH Grant oblige prospective teachers to a significant time commitment. Plus, what if teaching isn’t a good fit, or what if a teacher is unsuccessful in low-income schools? What if he or she chooses (or is instructed) to teach another subject that’s not considered a designated high-need field (i.e. English, history, music, art)?

Answer: It’ll cost you dearly. The TEACH Grant definitely raises concerns. In these cases, the TEACH “Grant” is no longer a grant.

Estimated monthly repayment amounts of loans from a TEACH Grant:
• $4000 TEACH Grant
o Pay $50 per month
o Repayment will take 8.75 years
o Total repayment would be $5,343.75

• $8000 TEACH Grant
o Pay $92 per month
o Repayment will take 10 years
o Total repayment would be $11,047.20 — it could cost me about $3,050 to change my mind!

This is another costly aspect that prospective teachers need to consider before accepting financial aid that sounds too good to be true. For the government, this offer produces a high return on investment. However, considering the default terms, prospective teachers may not see this grant as an incentive. There must be less binding ways to attract people to this field. Nevertheless, I need to get going on my TEACH Grant entrance counseling. I’m taking the plunge!

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