Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness  (PSLF) Program discharges any remaining debt after 10 years of full-time employment in public service. The borrower must have made 120 payments as part of the Direct Loan program in order to obtain this benefit. Only payments made on or after October 1, 2007 count toward the required 120 monthly payments.

 What is forgiven? The remaining interest and principal of the borrowers loans are forgiven.

 How many payments are required? The loan forgiveness occurs after 120 monthly payments made on or after October 1, 2007 on an eligible Federal Direct Loan. Periods of deferment and forbearance are not counted toward the 120 payments. Payments made before October 1, 2007 do not count.

Define public service employment? The borrower must be employed full-time in a public service job for each of the 120 monthly payments. Public service jobs include, among other positions, emergency management, government , military service, public safety and law enforcement (police and fire), public health (including nurses, nurse practitioners, nurses in a clinical setting, and full-time professionals engaged in health care practitioner occupations and health care support occupations), public education, early childhood education (including licensed or regulated childcare, Head Start, and State-funded prekindergarten), social work in a public child or family service agency, public services for individuals with disabilities or the elderly, public interest legal services (including prosecutors, public defenders and legal advocacy on behalf of low-income communities at a nonprofit organization), public librarians, school librarians and other school-based services, and employees of tax exempt 501(c)(3) organizations. Full-time faculty at universities, as well as faculty teaching in high-need subject areas and shortage areas (including nurse faculty, foreign language faculty, and part-time faculty at community colleges), also qualify.

Which loans qualify for the PSLF Program?  Eligible loans include Federal Direct Stafford Loans (Subsidized and Unsubsidized), Federal Direct PLUS Loans, and Federal Direct Consolidation Loans. Borrowers in the Direct Loan program do not need to consolidate in order to qualify for loan forgiveness. Borrowers in the FFEL program will need to consolidate into Direct Loans.

What should I do now? Submit the Employer Certification Form  to the US Department of Education annually  to ensure that the qualifying public service employment is properly recorded.

How do I erase my loans under the PSLF Program?  File a PSLF application with the US Department of Education after making 120 qualifying payments while working full-time in a qualifying public service job.

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Disability Discharge of Federal Student Loans

The borrower’s permanent and total disability is grounds for a student loan discharge. Borrowers with FFELs, Direct Loans, and Perkins loans are eligible for this discharge.[1] This includes consolidation loans.

The definition of disability changed as of July 1, 2010. The new definition is less restrictive and is more favorable for borrowers because it allows discharges to be granted to borrowers who are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death, can be expected to last for a continuous period of 60 months, or has lasted for a continuous period of 60 months.[2]

The borrower applies directly to the loan holder for a disability discharge. If the borrower has different loan holders, the borrower should submit a separate application to each loan holder.

In order to help ensure a more efficient application process, borrowers should follow these guidelines from the Department:

  1. Be sure to sign the application. A photocopy must contain an original signature.
  2. Separate applications must be submitted to each loan holder. Copies may be submitted. However, each copy must have an original borrower signature. Original physician signatures are not required on each copy.
  3. The application must be signed by a doctor of medicine or osteopathy who is licenses to practice in the United States.
  4. The doctor must complete the application.
  5. Doctors should not use medical abbreviations or insurance codes on the application.
  6. The doctor must provide more than a diagnosis. The doctor must also identify the medical condition and clearly and fully explain how the condition prevents the borrower from working and earning money.                                                             

The lender may continue collection activity until it receives the certification of disability. The borrower may request an administrative forbearance to stop collection activity during the review period.

It is important for borrowers to realize that the Department of Education has a very high rate of denials due to “medical review failures.” However, the denial is not tied to an actual medical review. Instead, this is a generic denial category that can mean anything from a missing license number to the physician forgetting to check a box on the application form. The Department of Education often sends a follow-up letter to physicians that require a relatively prompt response and failure of the physician to timely respond may lead to a medical review failure. Borrower should not assume that a denial based on a medical review failure is tied to an actual medical review.

The Department of Education has set up a Disability Discharge Loan Servicing Center. The center can be contacted by phone at 1-888-869-4169, by email at disability_discharge@acs-inc.com, or by regular mail at U.S. Department of Education Disability Discharge Loan Servicing Center, P.O. Box 5200, Greenville, TX 75403-5200. Hearing impaired individuals with access to TDD can call 1-888-636-6401.

If borrower obtains a discharge, the balance of the loan is discharged.[3]

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[1] 20 U.S.C. § 1087(a); 34 C.F.R. §§ 674.61 (Perkins Loan), 682.402(c) (FFEL), 685.213 (Direct Loan).

[2] 34 C.F.R. § 682.200

[3] 34 C.F.R. § 682.402(c)(3)(ii).

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Perkins Loan Forgiveness Program

The Perkins Loan Forgiveness Program was the first to provide for cancellation of loans for teachers in low-income school districts.

A 2005 Second Circuit decision broadened the Perkins Loan Forgiveness Program to include numerous occupations related to teaching, public interest law and social work. Since the Second Circuit decision, the Department of Education has clarified its position in a “Dear Colleague letter” explaining that the program has indeed expanded to include numerous occupations that are considered socially desirable professions.

A short list of covered occupations include:

  • Full-time nurses or medical technicians;
  • Full-time law enforcement or correction officers;
  • Full-time staff members in the education component of Head Start;
  • Military service;
  • VISTA or Peace Corps volunteers;
  • Full-time fire fighters in local, state, or federal fire departments;
  • Full-time speech pathologists with master’s degrees working in certain elementary or secondary schools;
  • Certain librarians working in certain schools;
  • Full-time attorneys employed in public or community defender organizations.
Borrowers must perform uninterrupted service for a specific length of time to qualify for a Perkins loan discharge. However, the Department of Education has waived the continuous service requirement for borrowers who are members of the military reserves or who are regular active duty members of the Armed Forces.
It is important to note that borrowers lose access to Perkins Loan Forgiveness Program if they consolidate their loans with “Direct Loans.”

Check the following website for more information:

De La Mota v. U.S. Dep’t of Educ., 412 F. 3d 71 (2d Cir. 2005)

U.S. Dep’t of Educ., Child or Family Service Loan Cancellation Benefit in the Federal Perkins Loan Program, Dear Colleague Letter GEN-05-15 (Oct. 19, 2005); 34 C.F.R. § 674.56(b).

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Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

Teachers who are full time and work five (5) consecutive years in certain schools that serve low income families are eligible to erase $5,000.00 of their federal student loans.

Math or Science teachers in eligible secondary schools and special education teachers in eligible elementary or secondary schools are allowed to erase up to $17,500.00 of their student loans in return for five (5) consecutive years of employment in certain schools that serve low income families.

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program under the FFEL Program and the Direct Loan Program apply only to borrowers with no outstanding loan balances as of October 1, 1998, or later.

FFEL and Direct Loan borrowers are not eligible for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program if their loans are in default status. If a borrower is in default status, it is imperative that they get out of default status by taking advantage of the Income Based Repayment (IBR) Program in order to establish their eligibility to participate in the loan forgiveness program.

It is important to note that teachers can take advantage of multiple loan forgiveness programs simultaneously. For example, teachers can apply for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and the Public Service Forgiveness Program at the same time.

Check the following website for more information:

http://ibrinfo.org/

http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/attachments/siteresources/LoanForgivenessv4.pdf

http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/attachments/siteresources/PSLF_QAs_final_02%2012%2010.pdf

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Loan Forgiveness Program

This program is available to all borrowers who work in public service jobs for ten (10)
years and participate in a eligible repayment plan (IBR or ICR). The remaining balance
of the student loan (principal and interest) is forgiven after ten years of public service is completed.

The program applies only to Direct Loans which encompasses Stafford, Plus, and Consolidation loans. Some borrowers may find it advantageous to consolidate their
direct loans with their non-direct federal government loans in order to take advantage
of this benefit.

Borrowers with non-direct loans should consolidate with direct loans as soon as possible because only payments made through the Direct Loan Program count towards the ten
year forgiveness period. Borrowers who have previously consolidated their loans are eligible to reconsolidate their loans (combine direct loans with non-direct loans) to take advantage of this loan forgiveness program.

In order to qualify, borrowers must not be in default and must have made 120 payments
on their loans after October 1, 2007. Payments can made through any of the eligible repayment plans (IBR or ICR). Borrowers must be employed in a public service job at the time of the forgiveness.

Jobs with federal, state, local, or tribal government organizations, public child or family service agencies, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations or universities should be considered “public service jobs.”

Borrowers who are working for organizations that provide any of the following services should qualify: Law Enforcement, Public Interest, Military service, Public safety, childhood education, public health care occupations, and public education.

It is important to note that the loan forgiveness is based upon the employer’s eligibility,
not the type of job. Anyone working full time for a qualifying employer, regardless of his
or her job, may qualify. There is no requirement that borrowers must work in the same public service job for the entire ten year period.

Check the following website for more information:
http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/attachments/siteresources/LoanForgivenessv4.pdf
http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/attachments/siteresources/PSLF_QAs_final_02%2012%2010.pdf

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