Perhaps after you hit the books, you hope to work in politics, or teach young children, or direct a non-profit. We applaud your good intentions, but understand that mounting tuition bills and student debt can make you feel like no good deed goes unpunished.
It’s not fair that people who have a passion for public service should have to pay through the nose. And our number one public servant – Mr. President Barack H. Obama – seems to agree. Perhaps you’ve heard about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that was passed in 2007.
There is plenty of reading on this one. But since you’re up to your ears in schoolwork, I’ll save you some time and explain how to approach the PSLF program in five easy steps:
- See if you have Federal Direct Loans. Only these loans are forgivable. Grad PLUS Loans are also included, but for Grad Parent PLUS Loans, be careful. If you want to apply to forgive a Parent PLUS, than the parent must qualify for the program, not the student.
- Determine if you work for an eligible employer. You must work full-time for a public service organization, such as the federal government, or a state or local agency, or not-for-profit. Think Hill staff, city legislative aide, or Peace Corps volunteer. If you work for a private elementary, university or college, you might also fit the bill. So investigate. The deciding factor is whether your employer is tax exempt. Once you’ve discovered that your employer may fit the bill, submit an employment verification form. The government recommends submitting this form annually.
- Chose a repayment plan that qualifies. Call your servicer to check this one out, because it is super confusing. For example, the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan qualifies, but the Standard Repayment Plan doesn’t. It is essential to begin repaying under the right kind of plan.
- Make sure to pay your Direct Loan payments on time for one full year. You must be working for an eligible employer while making these timely payments, and also when applying and receiving loan forgiveness. And be sure not to default or waive your grace period – because then you’re out of the game.
- Submit a public loan forgiveness application. This is the final step after you fulfill all the eligibility requirements. The application will take about 30 – 60 days to process. If you never submitted the employment verification form discussed in step two, you can also use an employment certification form here instead.
But be wary; as with all things political, the PSLF program could come and go faster than you can say Washington Beltway. Just last month, the government acknowledged that while unlikely, there is the possibility that Congress could change or end the program. No matter what, continue to borrow responsibly, but don’t give up on your good intentions. We certainly need more people like you!