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Reducing Your Student Loan Debt

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40 million Americans have student loan debt. More student loans are in delinquency than mortgages, credit cards, and auto loans. In 2013-14, seven out of 10 college graduates left school owing an average of $29,400 each in student loans. Between 1980 and 2010, the average cost of a four-year public university education jumped from approximately $9,000 a year to nearly $22,000.

Don’t leave money on the table. Learn about your options for reducing your student loan payments. The average student debt is $30,000. There are ways to find relief from student loans: more than 33 million Americans qualify for Income Driven Repayment plans (IDR) and 1/4th of the workforce qualifies for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)?

Find out more about reducing you student loan payments by checking out the resources below.

Income Driven Repayment Options

There are at least five different plans that may help to lower monthly student loan payments. They fit under the larger umbrella of “Income Driven Repayment.” Learn more about these options at nea.org/home/60703.htm.

Income-Based Repayment

Income Based Repayment ties the size of your monthly loan payment to your income and family size. Learn more at nea.org/home/60700.htm.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

You may qualify for public service loan forgiveness after 10 years or 120 qualifying payments. Got questions? Read the FAQs: nea.org/ home/60605.htm.

Then, learn more about how to apply for public service loan forgiveness. Find out here: nea.org/home/60674.htm.

FAQs

What are the biggest things educators don’t know about their loans?

Many federal student loan borrowers (including educators) do not know what type of federal student loan(s) they possess. Loan type is important because it can determine a borrower’s eligibility to enroll in federal loan forgiveness programs. Borrowers typically have Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), and Perkins Loans. While the federal government no longer originates FFEL loans, many borrowers still have FFEL loans, which include Stafford loans.

Don’t consolidate your federal student loans until you understand what types of loans you own. Once you do, and understand which loan forgiveness programs you are eligible for (or not eligible for) based on your existing loan types, you can determine whether loan consolidation is right for you.

What are the top three things members should do if they want to reduce their student loan payments:

1st, get on one of the federal Income-Driven Repayment plans. These plans base student monthly payments on adjusted gross income (AGI) and family size.

2nd, determine whether you are eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness and/or Teacher Loan Cancellation. After five consecutive academic teaching years at a low income or Title I school, teachers can potentially have $5,000-$17,500 forgiven.

3rd, enroll in Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Once an educator is enrolled on an Income-Driven Repayment plan, they will be making PSLF eligible payments. After 10 years of payments, borrowers can potentially have the remaining balance discharged.

It seems confusing and complicated – why should members bother? What’s the benefit?

The benefits outweigh any initial frustrations over enrolling in any of the above referenced programs. Educators can potentially have portions of their federal student loans discharged. Moreover, by enrolling in these federal programs, borrowers are demonstrating that there is a constituency that needs and wants these programs to remain in existence.

Why don’t more members take advantage of these programs?

It’s not just WVEA members. For example, 33 million federal student loan borrowers are eligible to enroll in Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), including nearly seven million educators. These programs are often not well-publicized, and it can be confusing and complicated to understand how to enroll in programs, and – most importantly – which program to enroll in.

How do members apply for Teacher Loan Forgiveness?

Applying for Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF) is relatively straightforward. However, determining whether you should apply for TLF or take advantage of PSLF can be more challenging.

I work with low-income students. Is there something specific I should check out?

This page is the best place to learn the eligibility requirements for Federal Student Loan forgiveness or cancellation based on serving low-income students. The easiest way to see if a particular place of employment qualifies is by using the Low Income School Directory Search tool on this page.

Resources

Income Driven Repayment (IDR) Options

Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans base monthly student loan payments on a borrower's adjusted gross income (AGI) and family size. The following are the primary Income-Driven Repayment plans:

  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
  • Revised Pay As You Earn (RePAYE)

Enroll in an Income-Driven Repayment Plan

Borrowers can use their Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID and the Repayment Estimator to determine their eligibility to enroll in an IDR plan:

  1. Register for a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID.
  2. Log in to the Repayment Estimator with FSA ID.
  3. Enter adjusted gross income (AGI) and family size into the Repayment Estimator to determine IDR plan eligibility.
  4. Apply for an IDR plan online. Paper applications can be found here.
  5. Once enrolled in an IDR plan, borrowers must annually recertify their income to remain enrolled in their chosen plan. Loan servicers will not remind borrowers to recertify their income. Borrowers who fail to recertify will be removed from their IDR plan.

IDR-Eligible Federal Student Loans

Borrowers may have federal loans that are not eligible for an IDR plan in their current form. Some IDR plans require borrowers to consolidate loans to become eligible for an IDR plan.

Obtain Federal Student Loan Information

Borrowers can identify loan type, disbursement date and loan servicer at the National Student Loan Data System with their FSA ID.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness FAQs

What is Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)?

The PSLF Program promotes full-time public sector employment. Borrowers, like educators, may qualify for public service loan forgiveness after making 120 on-time, full, separate monthly payments toward a federal Direct Loan while working full-time in public service.

Borrowers must make those payments using a qualified repayment plan, and only payments made after October 1, 2007 qualify.

How do I enroll in Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

Print and fill out the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employment Certification Form.

  • Section 4 of the form must be filled out by the employer.

Submit the form to U.S. Department of Education FedLoan Servicing:

P.O. Box 69184
Harrisburg, PA 17106-9184

Borrowers may also submit the PSLF Employment Certification form via fax: 717-720-1628.

Define “on-time full, separate monthly payments.”

On-time payments are received no later than 15 days after the due date. Full payments must meet or exceed the amount that you’re required to pay each month. If borrowers submits payment for less than the full amount, the payment will not count toward the 120 required payments. Lump sum or advance payments will not be included when calculating the 120 required payments.

What’s a “qualified repayment plan?”

Qualified repayment plans include any Income-Driven Repayment plan, or the 10 Year Standard Repayment plan.

What else should I know?

  • Borrowers must be working full-time in public service during the following to at the time of a payment for it to count toward the 120 payments. They must also be employed full-time in public service when they submit their PSLF Employment Certification form and at the time forgiveness is granted.
  • Full-time is defined as a minimum of 30 hours.
  • Borrowers must annually resubmit the PSLF Employment Certification form.