Types of Special Education Scholarships
Special education scholarships that may be available could be a great way to lessen the final burden of furthering your education, if you qualify. There are a wide variety of different types of special education scholarships that may be available for qualified individuals that you may want to consider researching, including federal programs, state and institutional scholarships—and for those who already have student loans—student loan debt forgiveness programs. And there’s no hurt in applying!
Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Programs For Special Education Teachers[i]
If you already have student loans you may be wondering if there are any federal programs out there to help you. You’re in luck! The Student Loan Debt Forgiveness program was created to encourage people to enter and continue in the field of teaching. If you teach full-time for five years in certain elementary and secondary schools or educational service agencies that serve low-income families and meet other qualifications then you may be eligible for forgiveness of up to a combined total of $17,500 on Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans and Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans.
- You must have no outstanding balance on Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans as of Oct. 1, 1998, or on the date you received a Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan after Oct. 1, 1998
- If you are in default on a subsidized or unsubsidized loan, you must have made satisfactory repayment arrangements with the holder of the defaulted loan
- The loan(s) for must have been made before the end of your five academic years of qualifying teaching service
- You must have been employed as a full-time teacher for five complete and consecutive academic years, and at least one of those years must have been after the 1997–98 academic year.
How do I apply for student load debt forgiveness as a special education teacher?
In order to apply for loan forgiveness you must:
- Have completed the five-year teaching requirement
- Print and complete the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application
- Have the chief administration officer(s) from your school(s) complete the certification section
- Return the completed application to your loan holder or loan servicer
Federal Student Loan Program Information for Special education Teachers
Although there are a variety of different federal student loan programs that may be available for qualified individuals, there is one that is intended specifically students who intend to teach upon graduation: the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant program.
The TEACH Grant program offers grants of up to $4,000 a year to qualifying students who are completing—or plan to complete—their teaching degree. As a condition for receiving this grant, students must sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve that stipulates you agree to teach:
- In a high-need field
- At an elementary school, secondary school or an educational service agency for low-income families
- For a minimum of four complete academic years within eight years of completing your studies.
Applying for a TEACH Grant?[ii]
In order to apply for a TEACH Grant you must first:
- Meet the basic eligibility criteria for federal student aid programs
- Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
- Be enrolled in an TEACH-Grant-eligible undergrad, post-baccalaureate or grad program at a participating school
- Meet certain academic achievement requirements (typically, scoring in the 75th percentile in one or more portions of a college admissions test or maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25)
- Receive TEACH Grant counseling to learn the terms and conditions of the program
- Sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve
Maintaining Eligibility for a TEACH Grant After Graduation[ii]
To remain in good standing once you graduate, you have to agree to:
- Serve as a full-time teacher for at least four academic years within eight years after you graduate or cease to be enrolled in the TEACH-Grant-Eligible program
- Teach in a high-need field (special education is considered a high-need field)
- Teach as a highly qualified teacher at a low-income school or education agency
- Provide the U.S. Department of Education with documentation of our progress towards completing your service obligation
If you don’t meet the requirements of your service obligation, your TEACH Grant funds will be converted into a Direct Unsubsidized Loan that you must pay in full, with interest.
State and Institutional Scholarship Information for Special Education Graduate Students
Another option to consider when attempting to decrease your tuition costs is to apply for state or institutional scholarships, which may be available to qualified individuals. Check with your state’s Department of Education to see if they offers scholarships specifically for students who are pursuing a degree in special education. For example, Florida’s Tuition Support Program for Exceptional Students, provides financial support to qualified students earning a bachelor’s degree in special education or for grad students pursuing a master’s in a specialized field such as language pathology. Below are two more examples of state-specific scholarships that may be available to qualified students:
Minority Teacher Scholarship[iii]
Offered by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, the Minority Teacher Scholarships was developed to help minority students earn degrees that would allow them to become teachers in the state of Indiana. The award amounts may vary.
In order to be eligible for this scholarship, applicants must:
- Be a minority student
- Be admitted or attend an eligible Indiana institution full-time
- Intend to pursue studies that would enable you to teach in Indiana upon graduation
- Agree in writing to apply for a teaching position in an accredited school in Indiana following certification; and if hired, teach for at least three years
- Meet other minimum criteria established by the Commission for Higher Education
Kansas Teacher Service Scholarship[iii]
This is a service obligation program that provides financial assistance to qualified students pursuing bachelor’s degree programs in teacher and licensed teachers pursuing endorsement or master’s degrees in hard-to-fill disciplines—or either group planning to teach in underserved geographic areas in Kansas. Recipients may be eligible for up to $5,514 ($2,757 semester).
To apply, you must:
- Complete and submit the FAFSA
- Submit the State of Kansas Student Aid Application; the Kansas Teacher Service Scholarship Form and a $12.00 application fee
- Submit all official academic transcripts
- Submit at least one letter of recommendation and a one page personal statement of your academic and teacher goals
- Submit a copy of your teaching certificate or licensure if you’re currently teaching
Institutional Scholarship and Grant Information for Special Education Teachers
It may also be a good idea to apply for scholarships or grant programs that may be available for qualified students majoring in special education through your college or university. In some cases, local charities and foundations may partner with schools to award grants to students who meet their specific eligibility requirements. Institution-based scholarships will vary from school to school so be sure to check with the financial aid department at your college to see what’s available for qualified students. Below are two examples of these types of scholarships, which may be available for qualified students.
Dorothy B. Lucas Special Education Scholarship[iv]
- Fall and Spring awards available, one award issued each semester
- Must be enrolled a minimum of 6 units during semester of award
- Must hold a GPA of 3.5 or higher
- Must be a classified graduate pursuing an M.A. in Special Education, with an emphasis in Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Early Childhood Special Education, Mild/Moderate Disabilities, Moderate/Severe Disabilities, Orientation & Mobility, Physical & Health Impairments, Visual Impairments, or Vocational Special Education; or must be admitted and enrolled in an Education Specialist Credential in Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Early Childhood Special Education, Mild/Moderate Disabilities, Moderate/Severe Disabilities, Physical & Health Impairments, Visual Impairments, or Clinical Rehabilitative Services Credential in Orientation & Mobility.
- Award amount is $2,500[v]
William L. Neer Scholarship[iv]
- Available in the fall only
- Must be a classified credential or Master’s degree candidate in Visual Impairment or Orientation and Mobility programs in Special Education
- Must be enrolled in at least 3 units
- Award amounts vary from $200-$500
*Please visit the websites cited for the most up-to-date information on the scholarship and financial aid programs discussed herein.
Sources: [i] studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/teacher#teacher-loan-forgiveness | [ii] studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/grants-scholarships/teach#what-is-teach | [iii] in.gov/sfa/2342.htm | 3.http://www.kansasregents.org/resources/PDF/2239-current-teachscholarshipinfo.pdf#activePanels_ | [iv] sfsu.edu/~coe/coe/scholarships.html#2 | [v]gcoe.sfsu.edu/current-students/scholarships