The U.S. Department of Education is tweaking its Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, standardizing the certification dates and issuing a new rule on allowable instances where grant recipients can “reconsider” grants that have turned to student loans.

The TEACH Grant isa $4,000 per-year grant that kicks in if a college student is at a TEACH-Grant eligible college or university, is studying to be an educator and meets qualified teaching obligations laid out by the U.S. Department of Education.

The two new rules change how the TEACH grant is implemented, and deserves scrutiny. Let’s take a closer look.

A New Standardized Annual Certification Date

The U.S. Department of Education announced a standardized annual certification date for every TEACH Grant recipient.

The new certification date, which rolls out October 31, 2019, makes the grant’s annual certification process easier by having just a single certification deadline every year. The October date is expected to remain the TEACH Grant’s certificate date each year going forward.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, FedLoan Servicing (the TEACH Grant’s servicer) will contact grant recipients and spell out how to submit a documentation of progress on the status on the hollowing fronts:

  • An update on the recipient’s academic progress
  • How the grant recipient is progressing toward meeting the TEACH Grant obligations
  • The contact request will also include an update on the grant recipient’s certification of intent to meet the grant’s service obligations

The federal government is clear on the outcome if a TEACH Grant recipient does not complete their documentation of progress or certification of intent by October 31 of each year, and what happens if the recipient does not respond to reminder notices from FedLoan Servicing.

Under that scenario, ”all TEACH Grants you received will be converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans,” the U.S. Department of Education states. “You must then repay these loans to ED, with interest charged from the date the TEACH Grants were disbursed (paid to you). FedLoan Servicing will notify you if your TEACH Grants are converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans.”

FedLoan Servicing also clarifies what happens if a TEACH Grant recipient’s annual certification date started on or before October 31, 2018. In that event, the new ruling’s effect on that recipient depends on a key factor – if the documentation was transmitted to FedLoan Servicing by the recipient’s designated documentation deadline date.

If the documentation and certification was sent inside the allowable grace period, FedLoan Servicing will simply send confirmation acknowledging the receipt of the materials.

If the deadline was not met, FedLoan Servicing will state that the recipient ”failed to meet the annual certification requirement to which you agreed when you signed your TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve form.”

That scenario will lead to all the TEACH Grants to be converted into unsubsidized Federal Direct Stafford loans, which must be repaid, along with any interest incurred from the date the grant money was originally disbursed.

FedLoan Servicing will contact TEACH Grant recipients and let them know if their grants will be converted to student loans.

The organization also will contact recipients whose annual certification date is on or after November 1, 2018 and before October 31, 2019. FedLoan says that no action needs to be taken in that instance, and that the grant recipient’s next annual certification date will be October 31, 2019.

Reconsideration of Grants Turned into Loans

The U.S. Department of Education also announced a new process where TEACH Grant recipients whose grants were converted to unsubsidized direct loans after failing to meet the TEACH Grant service requirements, get an opportunity to request reconsideration of their fulfillment of the TEACH Grant service requirements.

Teachers and educational professionals have reported frustration over their TEACH Grants being converted into student loans, saying the decision to convert was made over a technicality (like filing their paperwork a few days late) or, in some cases, for no reason at all.

Under the “second chance” new rule, recipients who have lost their grants may request reconsideration if they met or are meeting the TEACH Grant’s service obligation (teaching for four years within the eight-year service obligation period), but had their grants converted to loans because they did not comply with the annual certification requirement.

It won’t take long for TEACH Grant recipients to find out if they’ll get a chance to make their case.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, agency staffers will email eligible grant recipients and ask them to officially request TEACH Grant reconsideration. The email will come from noreply@studentloans.gov, so check your spam filters.

If a grant recipient gets to that point, the odds of a successful outcome will depend on two factors, according the U.S. Department of Education:

  • The recipient completed their required four years of qualifying teaching within their eight-year TEACH Grant service obligation period.
  • Or, the recipient has not yet completed all four years of required teaching, but is presently employed, or anticipates being employed, in a qualifying teaching position that meets the mandates laid out in the TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve. The recipient will also have to convince Uncle Sam that he or she will complete the required four years of teaching within the eight-year TEACH Grant service obligation period.

TEACH Grant recipients who feel they have a case to make for reconsideration, but don’t get the early February email, may still request reconsideration if they have completed their mandated four years of qualifying teaching within the eight-year TEACH Grant service obligation period.

TEACH Grant recipients can call FedLoan Servicing at 1-855-499-9543 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time (ET), Monday through Friday.

Additional information that might bolster your case will likely be required.