What Teachers Should Know About Loan Forgiveness Programs

Last year, students loans made up the highest delinquency rate of any kind of household debt. It is safe to say that many graduates are struggling to pay back their school loans. But if you’re a teacher, you might be in luck! The Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness program may allow you to have some of your student loan debt forgiven—but there are specific rules and strict repayment schedules you will need to follow. Today’s blog post takes a look at loan forgiveness rules for educators in New Jersey.

 

In order to take advantage of the Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness program, you need to have one of these loans: a Subsidized Federal Stafford Loan, an Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan, or a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan. It’s also important to note that you cannot qualify for loan forgiveness if you are in default on your loan unless you have previously made arrangements with you loan provider for a repayment plan going forward. Under the Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness program, administrative staff, school counselors, librarians, and other school staff are not considered “teachers” and therefore are not eligible for loan forgiveness.

 

However, even if you meet all of the above criteria, you must have worked as a full-time teacher at a low-income school for five academic years consecutively after the 1997-1998 school year to qualify for the program. (Did you catch all that?) The award amount you will receive depends on the subject you teach, how long you have been teaching, and what level of qualifications you have. The maximum award for science, math, and special education is $17,500, while all other subject educators can receive a maximum of $5,000. You can apply online at ifap.ed.gov.

 

Considering not many teachers will qualify for the Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness program, and those that do may still have a lot of debt left, it is a good idea to look into alternatives for teacher loan forgiveness. Luckily, you can stack loan forgiveness programs, but typically you cannot apply for more than one loan simultaneously. Take the time to look over all of your options to ensure that you are choosing the right loan forgiveness program or programs for you. Here are some of the more common loan forgiveness programs for teachers:

 

Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation: This forgiveness program is specifically designed for teachers with Perkins loans. While the Perkins Loan Program ended in 2017, if you have outstanding Perkins loans, you could qualify to have 100% of the loan canceled over a period of time. You must teach at either a low-income school or within the following subjects: math, science, foreign languages, special education, or a subject that is experiencing a shortage of qualified teachers in your state. To apply, you will need to contact your alma mater for the specific rules of the Perkins Loan.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness: With only 1% of applicants getting accepted to the program, there is a very specific criteria that must be met for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. While teachers are not limited to specific schools or subjects, there are four major criteria that must be met.

1. Your loans must be federal direct loans.

2. You must have an income-driven repayment plan.

3. You must be employed by a qualifying employer, AND

4. You must have already made at least 120 payments (or 10 years of monthly payments). The online Public Service Loan Forgiveness tool will help you determine if you qualify and allow you to apply if you meet all qualifying criteria.

State and School Forgiveness Programs: Every state has at least one student loan forgiveness program for those who work in public service fields. Colleges and universities also sometimes provide teacher loan forgiveness programs. Reach out to your alma mater’s financial aid or alumni office to find out if they sponsor and loan forgiveness programs.

If you are a teacher struggling to pay back your student loans, these forgiveness programs can help you get ahead of your debt. If you have student loans that do not qualify for these forgiveness programs, Veitengruber Law can help. Our debt resolution team offers individualized advice and comprehensive debt solutions to get you back on the road to financial health.

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Student Loan Relief for NJ Retirees

NJ retirees

A growing number of people entering retirement are struggling to afford their student loan payments. Some older borrowers may have taken out loans for themselves to go back to school later in life, while others co-signed loans for their children or grandchildren. As of 2015, the average student loan debt owed by borrowers 65+ was $23,500 and nearly 40% of those loans were in default.* Carrying student loan debt into your 60’s can make it extremely difficult to sustain your standard of living through retirement.

 

Even worse news is that an increasing number of borrowers in retirement have had portions of their Social Security retirement and disability benefits garnished for nonpayment of federal student loans. If a loan is in default, lenders can take up to 15% of a retiree’s monthly Social Security benefits. This can affect retirees’ ability to buy food, pay for housing or afford needed medication. If you are struggling to make student loan payments under a retirement budget, consider the following options.

 

Many lenders offer loan modification options for borrowers struggling to keep up with their payments. Some offer ways to temporarily reduce student loan payments through deferment or forbearance. Deferment will allow you to put off your loans for a designated time period, usually no longer than three years. Borrowers approved for deferment will not have to make payments during that time. Under some loan agreements, you may even be able to defer interest accrued during the deferment period.

 

Forbearance is similar to deferment, with some slight differences. Under forbearance, your loans will be paused or reduced for up to a year. Your interest, however, will still continue to accrue under forbearance. Many times, lenders will allow borrowers to apply for an elective forbearance with the understanding that this kind of loan modification can only be utilized a limited number of times. It is important to note that these types of interventions are effective for momentary financial struggles, but are not long-term solutions. These options will allow you to postpone repayment, but they do not take away the debt.

 

Under some circumstances, you may be able to file a special request to get your student loan debt forgiven. This request must include a written Complaint indicating the student loan debt is causing undue hardship on the borrower. The official legal Complaint will be served in court together with a Summons on the applicable lender(s). A judge will then decide whether or not to forgive all or some of the student loan debt. This decision will be based on the borrower’s income, their financial hardships, any medical hardships and whether or not the individual has previously tried in good faith to make the loan payments.

 

While you can file this Complaint yourself, the document must be in a special format and include very specific information about the borrower’s financial situation. Up to 40% of these cases result in at least a partial loan forgiveness for the borrower. While law firms do charge a fee to assist in these filings, it’s easy to see that you’d likely get a huge return on your investment of the expert help of an experienced attorney. At Veitengruber Law, we know what judges are looking for in these filings and can help you present a detailed case that is likely to be decided in your favor.

 

Student loan debt can be hard to manage at any age, and especially so for those living on a fixed income. Don’t let student loan debt drain your financial resources in retirement. Call us today to get individualized advice on your specific case.

 

*Statistics from AARP

Getting Out of Student Loan Debt: Public Service Employees in NJ

Are you working as a New Jersey firefighter, police officer, teacher, nurse, principal, or hospice care worker? Employees working these jobs, along with many others, have one major thing in common: a motivation to serve others. When people have access to services and education, even if they cannot afford them, society benefits. You’re playing a role in the well-being of society. Though it may seem like you could earn more money in another field, there are unmatched benefits to working as a public service employee.

Unbelievably, 40 million Americans have student loans to pay off; there’s a high chance that you’re one of those 40 million. The good news for you is that if you’re a public service employee, you could be eligible for student loan forgiveness. That sounds awesome, right?

In 2007, Congress formed the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) to embolden individuals to enter the public service work force and to continue working as public service employees. Again, although these jobs may not be the highest paying, they are absolutely necessary, which is what Congress wanted to reinforce. To qualify for this program, your job must be in a nonprofit organization, the government, or a specific not-for profit program.

How can you qualify for student loan debt relief – is it enough to simply be a public service employee?

It’s necessary to be employed full-time by a public service program, and under certain repayment plans, it’s required that you have made at least 120 payments on the eligible federal student loans. Every payment must meet or exceed the required amount and must be paid on time, meaning no later than 15 days after the due date. October 2017 was the first month that any remaining loan balances were eligible to be eliminated. This program is not unique to New Jersey, but all New Jersey public service employees can apply to the program, as long as all stipulations are met.

In addition to the public service jobs already listed, employees in the following sectors can also benefit from the PSLF Program:

  • Government organizations
  • Non-profit, tax-exempt organizations (listed under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
  • Private, non-profit organization that provides any of the following services:
  • Law Enforcement
  • Military Service
  • Public Safety
  • Public interest law services
  • Early childhood education
  • Public services for the elderly and disabled individuals
  • Public library services
  • Public education
  • Public health (nurse practitioners, nurses, full-time health professionals in healthcare practitioner occupations)
  • Emergency management

How do you know what loans fall under the PSLF Program?

All non-defaulted loans under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program meet the requirements. Basically all Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans as well as Direct Consolidation Loans are eligible. In addition, Direct PLUS Loans for parents and graduate or professional students fall under the PSLF Program.

To enroll in the PSLF Program, you need to print and complete the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employment Certification Form, and Section 4 must be filled out by your employer. Once the form is completed, send it in to the U.S. Department of Education FedLoan Servicing. Each year, the form needs to be resubmitted.

If you have student loans and you meet the requirements for eligibility under the PSLF Program, don’t hesitate to enroll. You could potentially save a substantial amount of money each month – freeing up that capital to pay for your monthly expenses.

Image: “Teachers Union” by Kevin Dooley – licensed under CC 2.0