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Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program – What You Need To Know

TeacherPublic service workers fulfill a vital role in the communities in which they serve, yet many still have student loans that are currently in repayment. According to The Huffington Post, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently revealed that up to a quarter of the United States workforce is currently not taking advantage of a program designed to provide student loan relief to public service workers. This means that members of the military, firefighters, teachers, and others who dedicate their lives to serving the public should be made aware of the opportunities that exist through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (“PSLF”). Here is an overview of how the program works along with the information that every public service worker should have to determine their eligibility, track service hours and complete the application process to have their loan forgiven.

General Eligibility Requirements
The PSLF program is designed to encourage graduating students to enter into their public service positions and continue to work full-time as they serve their communities. Therefore, the eligibility requirements are established to reinforce the importance of the services provided by these workers. To be eligible to have their loans forgiven under this program, a person must be working full-time at a recognized public service organization while making 120 full payments by their scheduled due dates under a qualifying repayment plan. It is also important to note that this program is only available for those making payments on a loan received under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. Other types of loans may be consolidated into a William D. Ford Loan; however, only the payments a person makes on the new Consolidated Direct Loan will be counted as the 120 payments required for eligibility.

Types of Employment Qualified for the Program
According to the U.S. Department of Education, a qualifying place of employment for this program can be any non-profit organization, government agency or entity that has been declared as tax-exempt by the IRS. For these types of organizations, there is no stipulation regarding what types of services must be provided for the organization to qualify. Some private not-for-profit employers that are not tax-exempt may still qualify provided that they perform specific services for the public. Examples of these would be the military, public education and health services, law enforcement agencies and services provided to those with disabilities or the elderly.

The type of job doesn’t matter when it comes to eligibility—as long as the employer is employed by a public service organization. So, everyone from managers and teachers to support staff may apply for loan forgiveness.

Determining Full-Time Employment
Under the PSLF program, applicants must be employed for as many hours as their organization considers a full-time position. However, these hours must equal 30 or more per week. For those who work in religious organizations, time spent on providing religious instruction or worship may not be counted among these hours. Educators who work under a contractual basis that includes specific months of time off may still be considered for loan forgiveness provided they work at least 30 hours a week during the contractual working period. Those who work part-time at more than one organization may also be eligible if their hours combined are equivalent to 30 or more hours a week.

How to Track Employment and Loan Payment History
Under most repayment plans, it will take at least ten years before a person has made 120 on-time full payments. For this reason, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends for public service workers to complete the Employment Certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness form which can be used to help keep track of a person’s qualifying employment and payment history. The form consists of three sections, with the first two being filled out by the person applying for loan forgiveness and the last to be completed by the employer. Many public service organizations are familiar with this process and may already have a plan in place for initializing the process of tracking employment hours. Those who change employers at any point during their repayment period will need to resubmit the form and update their information to include the new employment history.

Completing the Application Process
After a public service worker has made their 120th payment on their student loan, they can submit their application for loan forgiveness. It is important to note, however, that the applicant must still be working full-time with the qualifying organization at the time they file the application. During the time that the application is being processed, the PSLF servicer may request additional information to document a person’s employment or loan payment history. Prompt submittal of any requested documentation will help to ensure that a decision is made in a timely manner.

Student loans have made it possible for many public service workers to provide quality services to their communities using the latest research-based techniques for helping others. Today, the U.S. Department of Education has made it possible for millions of public service workers to find relief from their student loan debts by continuing to serve full-time at qualifying organizations. By understanding how the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program works and what constitutes qualifying employment and repayment, many public service workers can have their remaining loans forgiven so that they can continue to use the their skills to help those in the communities they serve.


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Teachers – Everything You Need To Know About Loan Forgiveness

TeacherStudent loans make it possible for educators to obtain the degrees and certifications that are essential for their career. After graduation from a degree program, repayment of these loans is the first step a person will need to make on the path to greater financial security. Fortunately, this step has been made easier by government programs that are designed to encourage more people to enter the teaching profession by helping to alleviate some of the burden that may be incurred by student loans. Here is an overview of how the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program works along with how a person can get started on determining their eligibility for having their loan balances forgiven.

General Requirements
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program is open to any teacher who has provided direct classroom instruction full-time to students in schools that are designated as serving low-income families for at least five consecutive years (sometimes called “Title I-eligible schools”). Those interested in the program must have no outstanding balances on their account from October 1, 1998 and up to the day the loan was obtained. Anyone who is currently in default on their loan must have a satisfactory arrangement for repayment in place before they will be considered for the loan forgiveness program. It is also important to note that at least one of the five years of required teaching must have been completed after the 1997-98 academic year.

Loan Amounts Forgiven
The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program offers up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness; however, the amount that a person may have forgiven will depend upon several factors. The amount forgiven will vary according to the years of a teacher’s service along with their level of qualifications. Those who completed their years of service before October 30, 2004 may be eligible for up to $5,000 of loan forgiveness provided that they served full-time as a general education instructor in an elementary school or taught a secondary-level course in the field of their major. If a teacher is designated as highly-qualified in their classroom field, then the amount may be increased to as much as $17,500. For those who taught after 2004, the potential amount forgiven for a highly-qualified elementary teacher is $5,000. Special education and highly-qualified secondary teachers can be eligible for as much as $17,500.

How to Determine Eligibility
In addition to obtaining certification regarding one’s credentials as a highly-qualified instructor with over five years of full-time teaching service, a person will need to make sure the school in which they taught is designated as low-income for the purposes of the program. The school in which a person served must be qualified for Title I funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and must have been selected by the U.S. Department of Education based upon the decision that 30 percent or more of the students enrolled qualify for services provided by Title I. These schools are all listed in the Annual Directory of Designated Low-Income Schools for Teacher Cancellation Benefits.

Application Process
The first step toward having one’s loans forgiven is to fill out the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Application. Before filling out the application, one will need to compile a list of each school in which they taught along with any certifications or degrees that can support their designation as a highly-qualified teacher. On the application, the chief administrative officer for each school in which a person taught will need to complete a section that verifies a teacher’s years of service. After the form has been completed, it will need to be submitted to the loan holder or servicer responsible for a person’s student loans. Those who have obtained loans from multiple providers will need to file a separate application with each one.

Follow-Up Procedure
After the application has been submitted, teachers will be contacted regarding the status of their application. In some instances, it may be necessary to provide additional documentation regarding one’s years of teaching service. For example, those who were unable to complete a full year of service may be able to have it counted if they send proof that they were on active duty or covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act during the time of their absence. Promptly following-up on any additional requests for documentation will help to reduce the processing time of a person’s application and offers the best chances for receiving the full loan forgiveness amount. Once the application has been processed, a statement will be sent to the teacher that provides the amount that will be forgiven along with a brief explanation for how the amount was determined.

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program is beneficial for educators who need a solution for managing their student loans and is effective for encouraging highly-qualified teachers to enter and continue to work in their chosen profession. By understanding how the forgiveness program works, educators can take advantage of loan forgiveness so they can better manage their finances while still enjoying the benefits of higher educational opportunities that can enhance their effectiveness for providing quality education to every student in their classroom.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Julie Moreno. She knows how important it is for teachers to find the resources they need. In addition to Loan Forgiveness programs, aspiring teachers can check out for more information on teaching salaries, career paths, and Master’s degrees in Education. 

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