Study: TEACH Grants Fail to Produce Better Teachers

Nearly 100,000 grants under the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education have gone mostly to students in poorly rated teacher training programs and don’t result in many teachers being employed in high-need areas, a new study has found.

Third Way, a Washington-based think tank, looked at data from the six-year-old federal TEACH program and found:

  • Nearly 40 percent of the 95,000 students who have been awarded TEACH grants have already had their grants rescinded and converted into unsubsidized loans.
  • The bulk of TEACH grants have been awarded to students in schools that have poorly rated teacher training programs.
  • The programs most likely to use TEACH grants are not the top-tier training programs originally envisioned for its use. For-profit and online universities have dominated the top spot in number of grants disbursed every year.


Under the current TEACH grant program, undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students are eligible to receive awards of up to $4,000 per year while in a teacher training program, as long as they maintain a GPA of 3.25 and agree to serve for at least four years in a low-income school and a high-needs field.

High-need fields are defined as bilingual education and English language acquisition; foreign language; mathematics; reading specialist; science; special education; and any other field that has been identified as high need by the federal government, a state government, or a local education agency, and that is included in the annual Teacher Shortage Area Nationwide Listing.

If, however, a graduate is unable to find a job in a high-needs area, transfers schools, leaves the teaching profession, or is even laid off due to budget cuts, the grant is converted immediately into a loan with interest.

The report noted that top-ranked teaching programs listed in U.S. News and World Report give out relatively few TEACH grants. Michigan State University’s 80 grants were the most among the top 10 ranked schools during the 2013-2014 school year.

“The data is clear: the TEACH grant program — which was well-intentioned in its desire to serve as this country’s marquee financial assistance program for recruiting high-achieving and excellently prepared teachers — has been a failure in its short six years of existence,” Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, the director of Third Way’s Social Policy & Politics Program, said.

In November, the U.S. Department of Education announced a proposed rule that would require teacher colleges to provide proof of their graduates’ classroom skills in helping advance student learning or face a possible ban from the TEACH program.●