Department of Education Eases Paperwork Requirements for Teachers to Receive Grants

The U.S. Department of Education eased paperwork requirements on Thursday for teachers submitting to receive federal grants that are used to encourage college students to teach in schools that serve low-income students.

The policy was submitted by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose plan eliminated a lot of paperwork that was causing problems for recipients of the grants.

Students can receive up to $4,000 a year if they plan on teaching high-demand subjects in schools located in low-income areas under the program. They must also teach for at least four years within eight years of graduating and submit regular paperwork. If they fail to either reach the goal or submit the paperwork, the grants turn into federal loans that must be repaid in full with interest.

Students were originally meant to submit a form within 120 days of graduating indicating that they started teaching at an approved school, and submit yearly forms that prove their teaching status. Both of these requirements were removed with the new policy.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Children and teacher stock photo
The Department of Education plans to ease paperwork requirements for aspiring teachers starting on July 1, allowing college students to apply for grants up to $4,000 a year for teaching high-demand subjects in low-income areas. Here, a teacher is seen helping her young students in a classroom during the pandemic. Getty Images

The update is part of a federal rules overhaul that was finalized under the Trump administration but is just now taking effect. Unlike other Trump-era rules that the Biden administration is working to reverse, however, this rule was heralded as a victory for the nation's teachers.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the changes deliver much-needed improvements to help teachers get grants "without having to jump through unnecessary hoops." He said the White House now hopes to take it a step further by expanding funding for the program and adopting other policies to address teacher shortages.

The TEACH Grants—short for Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education—were created in 2007 to expand the nation's teaching force and steer more teachers to schools in low-income areas.

Lawmakers in both parties have called for improvements to the program since 2015, when a federal watchdog agency found that thousands of the grants had been converted to loans. As of 2019, almost half of grants awarded through the program had become loans, in many cases only because recipients failed to turn in annual forms proving their teaching status.

On Thursday, Education Department officials emphasized that the only way a grant can now be turned into a loan is if students request it or if they run out of time to complete four years of teaching within the eight-year deadline.

An expanded appeals process will also allow students to request reconsideration if their grant is turned into a loan for any reason. And the Education Department will accept a wider range of reasons that would allow students to get credit for a full year of teaching even if they work just part of the year.

President Joe Biden is proposing to expand the program through his $200 billion American Families Plan. His proposal would double the grant size, to $8,000, for college juniors and seniors and all graduate students. It would also eliminate the interest when grants are converted to loans, and it would expand the program to include early childhood teachers.

The White House says the proposal would increase the number of grant recipients by more than 50 percent, to nearly 40,000 in 2022.

Secretary of Education
The Department of Education has eased paperwork requirements for teachers that apply for federal grants, a major victory for American educators. In this March 17, 2021, file photo, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington. Andrew Harnik, File/AP Photo