NEW YORK (Associated Press) — Student debt of more than 145,000 people in the United States has been canceled through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, although officials say many of them qualify.
Launched in 2007 to encourage professionals to work in the U.S. public sector, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program cancels student loan debt for those who pay monthly for 10 years while working in the public service or after doing so. 120 monthly payments during any time period as long as they are in public service.
Most of the removals have taken place since last year when the government changed the program’s strict rules. However, these changes will only be effective until October 31. Here is what you need to know if you want to apply for this program:
Who is qualified?
You qualify if you work or have been employed for at least 30 hours per week in any of the following organizations:
Government organizations of any scale (federal, state, local, or tribal government), including the military, public education personnel, and full-time AmeriCorps and Peace Corps volunteers.
Nonprofits are exempt from tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
You may qualify if you work for a nonprofit organization that is not tax-exempt and provides certain types of support such as emergency assistance, legal education, early childhood education, public health, services for seniors and people with disabilities, public security, public library services or schoolhouse.
To verify that your job in the public sector qualifies for the program, you will need to provide an employment certificate.
You will need to take out a loan from the Direct Loan Program, or combine other federal student loans into a Direct Loan Program loan. You will have to make 120 eligible payments in the program or 10 years of payments.
You may apply for entry into the program before completing 120 payments. Even the Department of Education is encouraging those who qualify for the program to apply, regardless of the number of payments, before the extended period ends on October 31.
What are eligible student loans?
Any federal student loan obtained through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program is eligible.
If you have a family education loan or a Federal Perkins loan, combine them. You can apply for the program before the integration process is complete.
Private loans are not eligible for the program.
How can I apply?
You must complete and submit an application to the program before October 31. You will still be able to apply after this date, but the temporary rule change will not be valid.
How can I combine my debt into a direct loan?
First, visit studentaid.gov to see if you have a Family Education Loan or a Federal Perkins Loan. These are the loans that need to be consolidated.
Then submit your application online, by mail, or fax through FedLoan Servicing. This process is free and takes over six weeks to complete. However, you may submit your application to the program before the integration process is complete.
What is the payment?
An eligible monthly payment is a payment made after October 1, 2007, while you are at an eligible institution.
All months of payments are paused due to the pandemic accounting for the total payments required in the program.
Payment interruption period of 12 consecutive months or more, or 36 cumulative months or more, valid during the temporary extension.
Extension months prior to 2013 are also valid under temporary extension.
In addition, the Department of Education will include an extension of valid economic multipliers beginning on or after January 1, 2013.
Eligible monthly payments do not need to be 120 consecutive. For example, you will not lose your credit for the months paid if you have worked with an unqualified organization for a period of time.
How do I apply for a temporary extension?
There is no separate application to be part of the temporary extension of the program. Exceptions will be available to all applicants who have completed the process no later than October 31.
How many people are participating in the programme?
As of May this year, 71,675 people have finished processing their forms to enter the program. According to the Ministry of Education, 61.9% of the borrowers work for the government, while the rest work for non-profit organizations. The average individual debt forgiven is $64,968.
Whom can I contact if I have more questions?
If you have a specific question about your application, it is best to call or email the Department of Education official.
To answer general questions about student loans, the Federal Student Aid Information Center or FSAIC has a customer service center that allows you to talk on the phone, send messages online, or email a representative.
For specific questions about the program, applicants may contact the FedLoan Service at 1-800-699-2908.
Additionally, the Student Borrower Protection Center contains a list of resources available in every state across the country (available in English only).
Where can I find more information about the programme?
Government and private organizations host many online and in-person events to assist applicants seeking to join the program.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Coalition hosts an online event the first week of each month on frequently asked questions about the program. Candidates can also access past events on the organization’s website.
The AccessLex Institute organizes a “How to Take Advantage of the Limited Opportunity for Public Service Loan Forgiveness” event several times a month. The 30-minute sessions help candidates understand the process and answer frequently asked questions. This event is free.
The National Education Association’s YouTube channel has two videos on how to apply for the program and frequently asked questions (available in English only).
The Associated Press is receiving support from the Charles Schwab Foundation to create educational and interpretive journalism with the goal of spreading financial education. The corporation is independent of Charles Schwab and Co. The AP is solely responsible for its journalism.
This story was originally published on July 6, 2022. Updated on July 8, 2022, to correct that student loan applicants can be relieved of their debt after paying monthly for 10 years while working in public service or making 120 monthly payments over any time period as long as They were in public service.
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