Over 100 students received student loan forgiveness counseling Friday at an event sponsored by the Office of Financial Aid and the School of Law as part of a Public Service Career Fair held every year.
Many students rely on federal and private student loans, but attorney and student loan expert Heather Jarvis said those who enter nonprofit or government positions should consider whether the Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Program would work for them.
“Public Service Loan Forgiveness is complicated, and many borrowers need to take specific actions like consolidating and choosing an income-driven plan,” Jarvis said. “Very few people have met the requirements because they don’t understand (them) well.”
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program allows the government to forgive the remaining balance on direct loans after applicants make 120 qualifying monthly payments while working full-time for a nonprofit organization that is tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
However, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the program is not taxable, meaning recipients will still have to pay 25–30 percent of the forgiven amount in taxes, and there is no guarantee the program will still exist by the time all payments are made.
Law student Matt Frederick said he has a Grad Plus Loan with an interest accruing.
“People may not realize, but (it’s not really) ‘forgiveness’...you get hit with a $40,000 tax bill, and if you don’t have that money, then you go to a credit card company or a private lender to pay for that bill at a much higher interest rate,” Frederick said. “So it’s not really discharging it.”
Last year, USA Today reported that 41,000 people applied for this program, of which only 206 got relief. The Trump administration wants to replace the program with a plan that would base monthly loan payments on income.
“There is more support on the Republican side of the aisle for limiting protections for students borrowers, so I don’t expect to see the same kind of legislation coming out of the House now that it’s in Democratic control,” Jarvis said.
Chris Zimmer, global public policy graduate student, said the program’s rules change too often before receiving benefits. Zimmer said he was skeptical whether the government would be able to grant loan forgiveness with all the regulations in place.
“It’s quite daunting considering the number of people who...are aware of these programs and...who get some sort of forgiveness,” Zimmer said.