Colorado Educator Loan Forgiveness FAQ



Questions About Eligibility

1. What are the basic program qualifications?
Teachers, Principals and Special Service Professionals (SSP) are all considered to be educators for the purpose of this program. SSP is defined as: School Audiologists, School Counselors, School Nurses, School Occupational Therapists, School Orientation and Mobility Specialists, School Physical Therapists, School Psychologists, School Social Workers, or School Speech-Language Pathologists. The program’s authorizing legislation specifies that first priority should be given to educators in rural districts who also teach in content shortage areas, second priority given to any educator in a rural district, and third priority be given to educators in content shortage areas, employed in non-rural districts.

In order to qualify, a teacher or principal must have completed an educator preparation program that has been approved by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE). The list of CCHE approved programs is available here.

In order to qualify, SSPs must have completed an accredited program of study and hold a credential in in their endorsement area. All teachers, principals, and SSPs must hold a valid Colorado license.

The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) defines a rural school district as one having a student population of 6,500 or less, and/or also by its distance to the nearest large urban/urbanized area. See this link for the approved list of state rural districts for the 2019-20 academic year.

CDE has also identified the following areas as content-shortage areas for the 2019-20 academic year:

Rural District Content Shortage Areas

  • Agriculture and Renewable Natural Resources
  • Business/Marketing
  • Early Childhood Education
  • English Language Arts
  • Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Special Education Generalist
  • World Languages
  • School Counselor
  • School Nurse
  • School Occupational Therapist
  • School Speech Language Pathologist

Non-Rural District Content Shortage Areas
  • Business/Marketing
  • Drama Theater Arts
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Instructional Technology
  • Special Education Generalist
  • Special Education Specialist: Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Special Education Specialist: Visually Impaired
  • School Nurse
  • School Physical Therapist
  • School Psychologist
  • School Social Worker

2. If I am not employed in a rural district, should I still apply?
Yes, but only if you are employed in one of the non-rural content shortage areas listed above.

Do I need to have a certain number of years of teaching or work service in Colorado to qualify?
No. If you are contracted for a qualified position for the 2019-20 academic year, and you meet the eligibility requirements, there is no set number of years you need to have been employed as an educator.

3. Do I need to have a certain number of years of teaching or work service in Colorado to qualify?
No. If you are contracted for a qualified position for the 2019-20 academic year, and you meet the eligibility requirements, there is no set number of years you need to have been employed as an educator.

4. If I am not one of the 100 program participants this year, can I reapply next year?
Yes, you are strongly encouraged to reapply

5. If I graduated from a Colorado educator preparation program, but am contracted now to teach in a different state, am I eligible for this program?
No. Only Colorado educators working in a Colorado schools are eligible to receive a loan forgiveness award under this program.

6. If I am enrolled in an educator preparation program now, am I eligible to receive an award for the 2019-20 fiscal year?
No. Only Colorado educators who have completed their educator preparation programs and are contracted and serving in positions for the 2019-20 academic year are eligible.

7. If I only work part-time instead of full-time, do I qualify for this program?
If you meet the other eligibility requirements, then yes. There is no requirement that an educator be employed full time.


Loans

Questions About Loans

8. What types of loans meet the definition of a “qualified loan?” Do they have to have been taken out in certain years?
All federal loans acquired through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), except Parent PLUS loans, are considered qualified loans. Some private education loans may also be eligible. A private loan must have been issued expressly for postsecondary educational expenses to a borrower, regardless of whether the loan is provided through the educational institution that the subject student attends or directly to the borrower from the private educational lender. A private loan that is issued as an extension of credit under an open-end consumer credit plan, a reverse mortgage transaction, a residential mortgage transaction, or any other loan that is secured by real property or a dwelling is not qualified.

For a loan to be considered a “qualified loan,” the borrower must have acquired the loan during a certain time period. For principals, a qualified loan must have been incurred while enrolled in an approved educator preparation program in Colorado. For teachers, the loan may have been incurred while enrolled in an approved educator preparation program in Colorado, or while completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the content area. Special Services Professionals must have incurred a qualified loan while enrolled in an accredited program of study in the endorsement area for which licensure is held.

9. My total qualifying loans are $6,000 and my colleague owes $4,000. Do we both qualify?
Yes. The loan forgiveness program can pay up to $5,000 towards a loan where more or less than $5,000 is owed. However, payment to the loan servicer cannot exceed the qualified loan balance.

10. If my loan(s) are currently in default and/or garnishment, am I still eligible for this program?
No, loans in default or garnishment are not eligible; however, a defaulted loan may become eligible if the default is resolved. Information on how to get your loan out of default is available here.

11. If I am participating in the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program where I expect to have all of my loans forgiven after 10 years of public service, do I still qualify for this program?
Yes. According to the US Department of Education: You may receive benefits under both an employer loan repayment plan, including the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program and the PSLF Program for the same period of qualifying public service.

Unless you are receiving student loan repayment benefits under one of the student loan repayment programs administered by the U.S. Department of Defense, if your employer makes a single lump-sum payment that covers multiple monthly student loan payments, the lump-sum payment will count as only one qualifying monthly payment and may result in your loan being paid ahead. If you make subsequent payments during a period when you are paid ahead, those payments will not count toward PSLF.

If you are receiving student loan repayment benefits under a program other than one of the programs administered by the U.S. Department of Defense and you’re working toward PSLF, ask your employer if the repayment benefit can be paid monthly, instead of being paid as a lump sum; you can receive credit for multiple scheduled monthly payments instead of just one.

12. Can the Educator Loan Forgiveness payment be made in monthly installments?
Not at this time. However, it is possible for the loan servicer to continue to provide you, the borrower, with a monthly bill even after the $5,000 Educator Loan Forgiveness annual payment has been applied. The Colorado Department of Higher Education will work closely with all program participants to ensure that steps are taken preserve PSLF eligibility for program participants.

13. Are parent PLUS loans eligible for this program, if I am the one making the payments on the loan now?
No. You, the qualified applicant, must be the holder of the loan in order for the loan to be considered a qualified loan.

14. Who is my loan servicer/issuer?
If your loan was received through the FAFSA, the issuer is the US Department of Education. Your loan servicer is the entity to which you make monthly payments. All federally contracted loan servicers are listed here.

If you received a private educational loan, the issuer is the entity from which you received the loan. The servicer is the entity to which you make payments.


Timeline

Questions about Timeline and Program Capacity

15. What is the deadline to apply for this program?
To be considered for the 2019-20 fiscal year, your application materials must be received by the Colorado Department of Higher Education on February 21, 2020, by 5pm.

16. How many educators will receive a $5,000 loan forgiveness award?
The law stipulates that a new cohort of up to 100 educators can receive loan forgiveness each year. This means that up to 100 educators will be able to participate in the program in the 2019-20 fiscal year. The next fiscal year, 2020-21, a new cohort of up to 100 more educators will be able to participate in the program. The next fiscal year, 2021-22, a new cohort of up to 100 more educators will be able to participate in the program. When the program reaches its maximum capacity in 2023-24, up to 500 educators will be participating in the loan forgiveness program (five cohorts of 100, with five years of eligibility).

17. If I received previous loan forgiveness under another Colorado or federal program, am I eligible to receive an award under this program? Yes.

18. If I received the $5,000 loan forgiveness award this year, am I eligible to keep receiving it in future academic years? Do I have to reapply next year?
Yes, you are eligible for up to 5 years of loan forgiveness awards of up to $5,000 per year if you remain employed in a qualified position. You will be required to complete a recertification process annually to determine that your position has not changed in such a way that has impacted your ongoing eligibility.

19. When will I be notified if I have received the award or not? If awarded, when will I receive it?
All qualified applicants will be notified of their program status by April 30, 2020. If awarded, you can expect the annual payment to occur in May-June 2020.

If I have a specific question about the program, not addressed in these FAQs, how do I get it answered?Please submit all questions not answered by these FAQs to EdLoanForgiveness@dhe.state.co.us.