After years of struggling to pay off her student debt amid the confusion surrounding government programs designed to help her, Lisa Dimone has resigned herself to hoping that an app will finally eliminate her debt load.
“It’s troubling that I rely more on a quiz to help me with my loans than on the US government,” Dimone said. She plays the game, which offers a student loan assistance prize, twice a day.
Disturbing, perhaps, but not entirely surprising given his experience. Dimone, 35, has worked at a public university for 10 years and has been paying off student loans for almost as long. She hoped to be debt-free soon through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF), which allows borrowers who work for the government or nonprofit organizations to get certain federal loans forgiven. after 10 years of qualified payments.
But due to confusion about the program and misinformation from companies managing her student debt, she recently discovered she had only made a year’s worth of qualifying payments.
“It sucks,” she said. “I should almost be done with paying off those loans.” Instead, Dimone said her debts of nearly $100,000 kept her in a one-bedroom apartment in her parents’ house, despite having a three-year-old child and a career. . And Dimone is skeptical that PSLF will still be around when she can ask for forgiveness in nine years. “I’m hopeful it will work out,” she said.
Why is October an important month for loan forgiveness?
Dimone is one of many borrowers and advocates who will be watching the PSLF program closely in the face of a major test in the coming weeks. October marks the first time borrowers will potentially be eligible for a rebate under the law. Government data indicates that less than 0.01% of borrowers who are on track to receive a rebate under the program have made enough payments to be eligible in October. Nonetheless, advocates say they will be watching the deployment closely.
For years, they feared that the program’s confusing requirements would leave borrowers hoping and counting on forgiveness disappointed because they didn’t take the right steps. While these concerns were present during the Obama era, in recent months they have taken on added urgency as the Department of Education under Betsy DeVos has signaled in budget documents that it wants to end in the program.
“Not only is there uncertainty about whether or not this program is going to happen, there’s always uncertainty about how it works,” said Analiese Eicher, program director at One Wisconsin Now, a non-profit advocacy organization that works with borrowers seeking forgiveness under PSLF.
How do people apply for student loan forgiveness?
The exact steps borrowers will need to follow to apply for forgiveness have only recently become clear. They will need to complete an application form and have it signed by his current employer. In addition, all 120 payments made by borrowers under the program will need to be certified to ensure they have the correct type of loan – a federal direct loan, not a loan under the Federal Loan Program for family education – and that they work for an eligible employer.
Borrowers can have their payments certified as they come and experts recommend that they file the necessary documentation, known as employer certification forms, every year. But if borrowers haven’t gone through this process, they’ll have to go back to previous employers to have their payments certified before they can get forgiveness.
Once the Department receives a borrower’s application, the borrower can choose to stop making payments on their loans while the assessment is in progress or to continue making payments. If a borrower continues to make payments and their loan is eventually canceled, they will get those overpayments back. Perhaps most importantly, borrowers must still work in the public service when applying for a pardon.
Borrowers who believe they have been wrongfully denied can go through a reconsideration process that involves submitting more information and having their application reconsidered, according to a ministry official.
For more information on the PSLF application process, visit:
Isaac Bowers, director of law school engagement and advocacy at Equal Justice Works, an organization that advocates for public interest lawyers, said he expects “snafus” to come. as borrowers raise their hands to ask for forgiveness for the first time. Still, since there will be so few people eligible for pardons this year, he expects the Department to be able to resolve the issues before the agency receives a high volume of applications in the coming years.
Why are so few borrowers eligible for loan forgiveness this year?
The repayment programs that are most beneficial to borrowers pursuing PSLF were not introduced until 2009, so borrowers who used these repayment plans paid for the program for a maximum of about eight years.
The confusion surrounding the PSLF has also meant that many borrowers have been making payments for years, assuming they are eligible, only to find they didn’t have the right job or type of loan to qualify.
“I call it a unicorn,” said Natalia Abrams, executive director of Student Debt Crisis, of the first wave of borrowers who will be eligible for the rebate this year. “We’ve advised literally thousands of borrowers over the past few years and I haven’t found a single person.”
The confusion surrounding the PSLF made Elizabeth Granado skeptical of its benefits. Granado, 38, first learned about the program in 2008, but didn’t realize she had the wrong kind of loan until a continuing education course in 2013. At that time, she consolidated her debts into direct loans and started contributing to the program. Granado’s experience has her wondering if the government will actually cancel her debts when the time comes.
When Granado first learned she had the wrong kind of loan during continuing education, she remembers thinking. “I bet no one gets their loans forgiven. They make things so difficult.
Granado said her waning faith in the PSLF program prompted her to quit her legal aid job representing victims of domestic violence. “I really don’t think my loans will be forgiven, so I’m going to go into private practice, although I became a lawyer because I wanted to help people.”