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Pay for Your SC Teaching Certificate Program

30 minutes
30 minutes

Pay for Your SC Teaching Certificate Program

Explore options for grants, scholarships, loan forgiveness and more.

Explore options for grants, scholarships, loan forgiveness and more.

You know what you want to teach and what program you want to attend. You’re excited to start your educator preparation program (a.k.a. your teaching program), but then you see the tuition bill. How will you pay for this? Is a teaching program worth the cost?

The short answer is yes. Becoming a teacher doesn’t just mean getting your degree and teaching certificate. You’re also starting a career that makes a difference in your community, includes health and retirement benefits and comes with professional growth built into the job.

When deciding how to pay for your teaching program, remember that you have options. On this page, we’ll guide you through some of the best ways to cover your expenses.

If you have any questions about your teaching program applications, reach out to a TeachSC coach or admissions staff for support. We’re here for you.

Jump to:

Ask about free money

The first step is to look for grants and scholarships from your program. The great thing about these resources is that you don’t have to pay them back. And you may qualify for more than one type of free financial aid!

What are grants and scholarships? 

Grants

Grants are free money for school. They come from the government or local organizations and colleges. These resources are often awarded based on things like income and family size. Some grant providers, such as small businesses and nonprofits, may have specific eligibility requirements.

The TEACH Grant—which is unrelated to TeachSC—is a specific type of award offered by the Federal Student Aid office (the same one that runs FAFSA). The TEACH Grant offers up to $4,000 a year to students entering the teaching profession. 

To qualify for a TEACH Grant, you’ll need to: 

  • Choose a program that participates in the TEACH Grant Program.
  • Teach in a high-need field, such as STEM, special education or English for Speakers of Other Languages. 
  • Teach at an elementary school, secondary school or educational service agency that serves students from low-income families.
  • Teach for at least four complete academic years within eight years after receiving the grant. 

Sticking to these guidelines is important. Otherwise, your TEACH Grant turns into a direct unsubsidized loan, which means you have to pay it back with interest. See the TEACH Grant website for more details.

Scholarships

Scholarships are generally awarded to students who have met specific qualifications in areas such as athletics or academics. You may also find scholarships based on the major you choose, your career choice, your hometown, or other factors like race, culture or gender identity.

Scholarships can come from schools, government aid or private organizations. There are hundreds of scholarships and grants out there, ranging from small awards to full-ride scholarships.

Where can I find grants and scholarships? 

If you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and apply to a college, you are automatically considered for many scholarships—but not always. Check with your teaching program or financial aid office, and search websites like Fastweb, Niche and Scholarships.com to find more scholarships in your area.

You can also check out TeachSC’s About Financial Aid page to search for opportunities, or browse our national list of financial aid and scholarships specifically for future teachers.

The TeachSC Scholarship offers $1000 for future teachers. Check out the TeachSC Scholarship page to learn more!

What to know about FAFSA

If your teaching program is through a college or university, you may be eligible for funds from the government through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Eligibility

Typically, you’ll need to attend a certification program through a college or university (rather than an alternative certification program) to be eligible for financial aid through the government. 

To find out if your program is eligible, you can use the FAFSA school search tool.

Deadlines

You can submit your FAFSA any time after October 1st in the year before you enroll in your program. For example, if you wanted to enroll in the spring of 2022, you could submit your application after October 1st, 2021.   

Remember that some forms of aid are first-come-first-serve, so apply as soon as you can! 

Check out TeachSC's FAFSA 101 guide for more details. Our friends at withFrank.org also make it easy to understand and apply for your FAFSA.

Sharing your personal information

When you apply for financial aid through FAFSA or through your program, you’ll need to provide some background information. You’ll likely be asked for your name, Social Security Number, email and other general background information.

Release of information

Some forms also include a Release of Information (ROI), which lets specified individuals and organizations access your form details. You’ll need to sign the ROI before your information can be shared. 

It’s a good idea to consent to this section, because it lets you be considered for additional financial aid programs.

Financial aid just for South Carolinians

South Carolina also offers incentives, forgivable loans and other rewards for educators.

Here are a few examples of financial aid available (visit our Financial Aid Explorer for more!):

Fellowships

The CERRA (Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement) Teaching Fellows Program helps pre-service teachers develop leadership skills and prepare for an education career. Fellows receive up to $6,000 a year for four years and commit to teaching in a South Carolina public school one year for every year they receive the fellowship. Students must apply for the Teaching Fellows Program between October 1 and December 1 of their final year in high school.

Housing Assistance

Organizations like SC Housing provide mortgage and down payment assistance to teachers. 

Head over to the TeachSC Salary & Benefits page to learn more about housing assistance programs.

Loan Forgiveness

South Carolina Student Loan provides loans up to $15,000 a year for qualified future teachers. If you commit to teaching in a critical need subject area, geographic area or both, you can get up to one-third or $3,000-$5,000 of your loan forgiven.

A “forgivable loan” means you need to teach for a certain amount of time, and you won’t have to pay back your loan. You can learn more about forgivable loan opportunities in the loan forgiveness section of this page!

Look for opportunities to earn while you learn

Work-study programs

Most colleges and universities offer work-study options, which let you earn money by working part-time, usually on campus. 

You can often match your work-study position to your program. For example, you may be able to work as a teaching assistant or academic tutor. That means you can get hands-on teaching experience while you pay for your education.

Alternative certification

If you have a bachelor's degree, you might consider an alternative certification pathway, which allows you to teach (and earn a paycheck) while you complete your teaching certificate. 

Learn more at the South Carolina Department of Education Alternative Route Certification Guidance page.

Check out benefits where you work

If you already work in a school district, you might want to continue working full- or part-time while attending your teaching program. It’s worth finding out if your school offers extra support for employees who are pursuing a teaching certificate. 

Scheduling support

Your school may have scheduling support, such as revised work hours. For example, if your normal work hours are from 8:00am - 4:00pm, your school may let you leave a few hours early in order to attend class.

Tuition vouchers

Some schools also provide tuition vouchers for staff who are choosing to continue their education.

These vouchers can cover anywhere from three to six credit hours. Not only does the assistance benefit you, it’s also a great way for schools to retain skilled and driven employees. Consider asking about these programs in your next interview.

Check out benefits where you work

If you already work in a school district, you might want to continue working full- or part-time while attending your teaching program. It’s worth finding out if your district offers extra support for employees who are pursuing a teaching certificate. 

Pay and benefits vary by district, so to learn more about your options, head over to your district’s website. 

Scheduling support

Your school may have scheduling support, such as revised work hours. For example, if your normal work hours are from 8:00am - 4:00pm, your school may let you leave a few hours early in order to attend class.

Tuition vouchers

Schools may also provide tuition vouchers for staffers who are choosing to continue their education.

These vouchers can cover anywhere from 3 to 6 credit hours. Not only does the assistance benefit you, it’s also a great way for schools to retain skilled and driven employees. Consider asking about these programs in your next interview.

Consider public service

Programs like AmeriCorps offer opportunities to serve in a community and explore career paths. Some AmeriCorps programs provide hands-on experience for people who want to become teachers. 

AmeriCorps partners with other programs and organizations that can help you transition into the classroom after your service.

Time commitment and financial benefits

AmeriCorps positions can last for three months or longer. You’ll earn a small stipend during the program. 

AmeriCorps alumni also receive an education award after completing their term of service, which ranges from about $350 to over $6,000, depending on how long you worked for AmeriCorps. You can apply that money to any educational expenses, including tuition and student loans!

Learn about federal student loans

While taking out loans may not be your favorite option, federal student loans have some perks.

  • No required credit. Unlike private student loans, federal student loans received through FAFSA don’t require a credit check or a lengthy credit history. This is beneficial for most students, as credit can often be the one thing that keeps you from being approved for certain financial benefits.
  • No payments during your program. Typically, you won’t need to start paying off your loans until after your program ends. That means you can focus on your classes without worrying as much about cash flow. 
  • Federal subsidized loans will not accrue interest while you are still in school.  
  • Fixed interest rates prevent loan amounts and interest from drastically increasing overnight.
  • Payment deferral lets you temporarily place payments on hold after you graduate. While interest may still accrue, this option is ideal if you haven’t yet started your new job. And you may qualify to have your loans forgiven!

Learn more about your options on the Federal Student Aid website.

Subsidized vs. unsubsidized loans

If you do take out loans—from the federal government or elsewhere—make sure you know whether they’re subsidized or unsubsidized. What’s the difference? 

Subsidized loans will not accrue interest until after you graduate (usually six months after). Unsubsidized loans start to accrue interest as soon as you receive the money.

Can I get loans through my program? 

Schools and teaching programs may also offer you loans, which you have to pay back with interest. Some programs offer subsidized loans, while others do not (remember, subsidized loans do not accrue interest while you’re completing your program, but unsubsidized loans do.) 

You can always reduce the amount of loans you accept, or completely decline them if you don’t need them.

Keep in mind that most programs are through colleges and non-profit organizations, so they keep fees low. If you’re considering a for-profit teaching program, make sure to ask about interest and fees.

Explore loan forgiveness programs

If you do use federal loans to pay for your program, you may be able to have all or part of your loans forgiven without paying them back. The federal government offers teachers, especially those who serve in high-need subjects or schools, several ways to get loan forgiveness (these programs generally do not apply to private loans through your school).

Check out these federal loan forgiveness programs:

  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness cancels up to $17,500 in federal loans for highly qualified math and science teachers who work for five years in low-income schools. If you teach a different subject, you may still be eligible for up to $5,000.
  • Perkins Loan cancellation wipes out up to 100 percent of your federal Perkins loans for teachers at low-income schools, or who teach math, science or other high-need subjects.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness cancels the remaining balance of your federal loans after 10 years of on-time payments if you have worked full-time in public service fields, including teaching.

You can learn more about loan forgiveness and cancellation on the federal Student Loan Forgiveness page.

    Remember, you've got options to pay for your teaching program. It all comes down to what works best for you financially. 

    Accept or decline financial aid

    Don’t forget: You’re not finished once you hit that submit button!

    If you attend a college or university, you’ll get a financial aid letter (or email) with the details of your award offer. You will have to accept these offers to receive them.

    Once you formally accept your financial aid package, you’ll be one step closer to your teaching certification!

    Get your application fee covered

    As you’re exploring financial aid, you’ll probably apply to some teaching programs. Most programs require a fee—usually around $50—when you submit your application.

    Some programs offer fee waivers based on income. Check with an admissions officer to see if you qualify.

    You can sign up for TEACH Fee Reimbursements to get up to $100 toward eligible application and testing fees! When you sign up for Fee Reimbursements, we’ll also set you up with a personal coach and checklist app, to help you keep track of application steps and deadlines.

    Want to keep exploring?

    Applications have a lot of steps, and we’re here to support you with all of them. 

    Check out more FREE tools to simplify the process.

     

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