By Eric Siddall
Prosecutors, firefighters, police officers and and other public servants at risk of missing out on federal student loan forgiveness because they enrolled in the wrong repayment plan received a reprieve from Congress. New federal rules aimed at giving student loan borrowers a chance to have their service loans forgiven have been approved – but public sector employees looking to take advantage need to be alert.
The relief plan, will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. That means when the $350 million fund administered by the Department of Education runs out, that’s it.
To be sure, there are significant conditions attached to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Among them:
- To be eligible for PSLF, a federal student loan borrower must work full time in the public or nonprofit sector for 10 years and make 120 on-time monthly payments in a qualifying repayment plan.
- Only federal direct student loans count. You can consolidate certain other loans into a direct consolidation loan, but the 120-month clock starts ticking after you consolidate the loans.
- Only payments made after October 2007 qualify. No payment can be more than 15 days late, and you have to be enrolled in a qualifying repayment plan.
After 10 years of qualifying payments, the federal government forgives the remaining loan balance. To actually apply for forgiveness, after you make your 120th qualifying payment, you will need to submit the PSLF application to receive loan forgiveness. You can find out how many qualifying payments you have made by submitting an Employment Certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness form to the U.S. Department of Education.
Although loan forgiveness under this program is available only for loans made and repaid under the Direct Loan Program, loans made under other federal student loan programs may become eligible for forgiveness if they are consolidated into a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan. If you have a federal student loan that is not one of the qualifying loans above, the faster you turn that into a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan, the faster you will qualify for this loan forgiveness program.
For more information about the program, visit studentaid.ed.gov/publicservice.
Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.