Although many teachers recognize the need for highly trained specialists and educators in special education, they often find that obtaining a master’s degree in special education can be expensive. Many teachers do not have the financial means to pursue such a degree. And even those who do may not be able to take enough time off from their teaching jobs to go through a lengthy master’s degree program.
Thankfully, online degree programs like the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Master of Science in Education (MSE) — Special Education offer degree candidates the opportunity to work toward a specialized master’s degree while still holding a job. UW-Superior’s affordable and convenient MSE allows students to complete coursework in as few as 12 months. But what if the cost of tuition, however low, is still out of reach for aspiring special education teachers? The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant is an important resource for such educators, offering assistance to those who meet financial need requirements and wish to work in a high-demand field in education.
What Is the Purpose of the TEACH Grant?
According to the Federal Student Aid website, the TEACH Grant is intended to address the specific situation described above: Allowing teachers with financial need to pursue specialized education which “is designed to prepare you to teach as a highly qualified teacher in a high-need field and that leads to a bachelor’s or master’s degree.” In offering financial assistance for tuition, the TEACH Grant can help fill important positions in specialized areas within schools, districts, Local Education Agencies (LEAs), Educational Service Agencies, etc.
Who Is Eligible for a TEACH Grant?
Individuals who would like to pursue higher education to become highly qualified teachers in high-need fields and who meet eligibility requirements as defined by federal student aid programs are eligible for the TEACH Grant. The high-need fields specified by the TEACH Grant include special education, bilingual education, foreign languages, reading, mathematics and science, but may also include any other field deemed high-need by the federal government. In addition, the higher education program that the individual wishes to enroll in must meet federally mandated criteria to be considered a TEACH Grant-eligible program, such as UW-Superior’s MSE in Special Education.
How Do I Apply for and Retain a TEACH Grant?
If you meet the federal financial eligibility requirements and your degree program is considered TEACH Grant-eligible, you can apply for a TEACH Grant. Applicants enrolled in a TEACH Grant-eligible degree program which participates in the TEACH Grant program (such as UW-Superior’s online MSE) need to fill out and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You will also need to receive TEACH Grant counseling so you understand what the grant offers and what your responsibilities are as a grantee. Once that is done, you need to sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve, which specifies that you will work full time in your specialized field for no fewer than four academic years.
The TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve further specifies that you will complete these terms of service within eight years of completing your degree program. If you fail to serve as a teacher in a high-need field or otherwise do not meet service agreement requirements, the TEACH Grant award amount will be changed into a Direct Unsubsidized Loan. You will need to pay this back in full along with all interest that accrues from the time the TEACH Grant funds are disbursed.
How Much Financial Assistance Will I Receive From a TEACH Grant?
The amount of assistance you will receive depends on your level of financial need as determined by the results of your FAFSA. The TEACH Grant funds are also allocated according to the cost of your program’s tuition and the length of that program. Generally, a TEACH award is given in the amount of $4,000 for every year you are enrolled in the program, although this amount varies year to year, depending on changes in federal education funding.
For example, UW-Superior’s online MSE in Special Education can take as little as one year to complete, in which case you would be eligible for a TEACH Grant of $4,000, which is more than a quarter of the full tuition for UW-Superior’s online MSE in Special Education program. If you complete the program in two years, you would be eligible for a TEACH award of $4,000 per year, totaling $8,000 — over half of your full tuition. For more information on the specifics of TEACH Grant funding opportunities (they vary year by year) as well as how they are applied to your tuition, contact your school’s financial aid office.
The TEACH Grant program can be an excellent source of financial assistance for aspiring educators who would like to pursue a career as a special education teacher but lack the financial resources to go back to school. If you are interested in studying special education through an online master’s program such as UW-Superior’s MSE, learn more about how this federal grant opportunity can put you on the path toward success in this rewarding field.
Learn more about the UW-Superior online MSE Special Education program.