Teachers and nurses run out of time to apply for student debt forgiveness

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Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who are current or former public servants could be eligible for federal student debt forgiveness under a revised loan waiver that should make eligibility easier — but time is running out to apply, warn state officials.

The program, Cancellation of civil service loanswas launched in 2007 and is separate from the federal student loan forgiveness plan recently announced by the Biden administration.

“This program, historically, really hasn’t worked very well,” said Kelsey Lesco, Colorado student loans ombudsman with the state attorney general’s office. “It was designed to provide relief to borrowers who were working full-time in the civil service, but it really fell short. Approval rates ranged between 1% and 3% for this program. This waiver was designed to correct some of those systemic problems that this program had. »

Individuals eligible for Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness include:

  • Current or former full-time public servants – including government employees, teachers, public hospital nurses and doctors, legal aid attorneys, non-profit employees, etc. – with federal student loan debt who have made at least 120 qualifying payments and have at least one loan and at least one approved PSLF form.

Changes to the program last year include counting past loan repayments for repayment that would otherwise not qualify, Lesco said. The old program only counted eligible loan payments under certain repayment plans like income-based payment plans.

Lesco said this information was not well communicated, meaning some officials would work for 10 years to reach the number of eligible payments needed to apply for loan forgiveness only to find they had always been in the wrong plan. payment and that their years of service did not count.

“People were wondering if they should do 10 more years with all this accumulated interest and hope they can pay it back or if they should leave the role of the civil service which pays less than the private sector and try to earn enough money. money to pay off their student debt,” Lesco said. “A lot of people ended up having to leave those roles.”

The most recent estimate Lesco has of the number of Colorado officials who could be affected by the change is from 2016, which shows there were 133,000 government employees and 25,000 nonprofit employees in the state. State.

For a limited time, borrowers who have made previous payments deemed ineligible may have those payments counted for the purposes of the rebate program. This applies to retirees or people who have left their civil service jobs, Lesco said.

‘We’ve had people call into our office who – for example, a retired teacher who taught for 20 years – was able to go back and have her years of teaching under this waiver and her loans counted. could be canceled under this derogation. so those are really huge impacts that it has,” Lesco said.

The deadline for requesting the waiver expires on October 31.

Eligible borrowers must have Federal Direct Loans or Direct Consolidation Loans, which means eligible individuals with Federal Home Education Loans or Federal Perkins Loans will need to consolidate their loans.

Prior to consolidation, borrowers can check to see if they have an eligible employer to studentaid.gov/pslf/employer-search.

Next, borrowers must complete an online form which may require documentation from the qualifying employer. To complete the form and learn more about the program, visit studentaid.gov/pslf/.

“People have a very limited time to act right now,” Lesco said. “It is extremely important that people take advantage of this. It is a life-changing opportunity.

Since the waiver was issued last October, Lesco said her office has recovered more than $1.1 million in student debt forgiveness for Colorado residents and she knows there are more beneficiaries. eligible.

Anyone in Colorado with questions about their student loans is encouraged to contact the state’s Student Loans Ombudsman, who can guide them through their questions. Mediator Kelsey Lesco can be reached at 720-508-6975 or [email protected]

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