The student loan debt effect on educators

student debt

For many educators, teaching is an idealistic career choice. “I believe in the power of education and the power educators have to really change the future for the best,” a 37-year-old elementary school teacher told us.

The daily pressures of teaching in today’s environment coupled with historically low salaries could mean that good teachers will leave education.

More than a third of educators are considering leaving the profession in the next three years for more money. Additionally, 44% of teachers leave the education profession within their first five years.i

“I have had to work a second job for 13 out of 15 years that I have taught to be able to compensate for my teacher salary,” a 40-year-old high school teacher said.

That economic pressure affects teachers’ personal lives, and a lot of that pressure is the result of student loan debt. Eighty-five percent of educators said student loan debt has prevented them from achieving life goals, such as saving, buying a house or starting a family. Others have taken on additional jobs to support their families.

Congress attempted to address this inequity by establishing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. Starting in fall 2017, borrowers were first able to apply for forgiveness under PSLF. Only 55 borrowers out of the first 19,321 applications had loans forgiven, according to a September 2018 U.S. Government Accountability Office report.ii

Today, achieving loan forgiveness can still be a confusing process. As of May 2020, 2,429 borrowers had been approved out of 155,642 applicants — a roughly 1.6% approval rate. However, more than 80% of rejections could have been prevented with awareness and planning, which underscores the general perception that there is a lack of coherent communication between the Department of Education, loan servicers and borrowers.

The overarching problem with the PSLF Program is that it is confusing for individual borrowers to navigate.

That’s where we come in.

Our research shows that a successful PSLF process could have a substantial impact on teacher retention – 88% of educators surveyed said having their student loans forgiven would make them more likely to stay in their chosen profession.iii And we believe addressing the economic challenges of the teaching force is not just a national workforce concern — it is a moral one. Educators are taking care of our children’s futures, and we owe it to them to look after theirs.

Since 2016, we’ve helped put educators on the path to over $250 million in student loan forgiveness.iv And we’re just getting started.

We’re expanding our Student Loan Solutions program to offer an online suite of tools and resources as well as loan coaches that will help educators manage their student loan debt and qualify for federal student loan forgiveness. Our new Student Loan Solutions program, powered by, is available to public K-12 educators directly through our website and through participating school districts.

This new program will help educators aggregate their student loan information, calculate their loan forgiveness potential, determine the best repayment plan and receive ongoing support and education. Educators can sign up at

Unless otherwise noted, all information provided comes from the Horace Mann Educators Student Loan Debt Study, June 2020.

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation. Horace Mann and are private, independent companies not affiliated with the Department of Education or the federal government. Horace Mann does not negotiate, adjust or settle debts. No assistance provided by Horace Mann constitutes official action for purposes of student loan forgiveness programs or guaranteed results. is an employer benefit student loan debt management platform that helps borrowers, through their employer or other sponsor, reduce and better manage their student loan burden. Horace Mann’s Student Loan Solutions program terms are subject to change.

i Ingersoll, Richard M.; Merrill, Elizabeth; Stuckey, Daniel; and Collins, Gregory, Seven Trends: The Transformation of the Teaching Force – Updated October 2018. CPRE Research Reports, 2018
ii United States Government Accountability Office, “Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Education Needs to Provide Better Information for the Loan Servicer and Borrowers,” 2018
iiiHorace Mann Educators Student Loan Debt Study — June 2020
iv Based on potential savings of educators assisted by Horace Mann from October 2016 through December 2019 as calculated with the Federal Student Aid Repayment Estimator.

WBTL-0833 (Aug. 20)

© 2023 Horace Mann Educators Corporation

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