Beware of your Loan Forgiveness Program!

3 Steps to Help Ensure You’re Compliant

Hands-Money Photo by Alexander Mils on UnsplashIt has come to light that since 2017, thousands of former students who participated with full faith and effort in the US Education Department's various loan forgiveness programs — such as working as an inner-city teacher or rural doctor — have gotten "stiffed" on their loan forgiveness applications. Some people have been told they haven’t made the required 120 consecutive on-time payments, even though they have. Some have been told their employment doesn’t qualify, even after being reassured at time of hire that it did.

It’s a sticky situation that started coming to light in 2017, ten years after the program (passed in 2007 by the US Congress and enacted by President George W. Bush) began when the forgiveness time came due. Many borrowers found that due to lack of oversight, important information about their loan payments or work history did not get recorded properly, and their loan forgiveness was denied.

What Should I Do?

If you are currently or planning to take advantage of one of the loan forgiveness programs, we suggest  you:

  1. Log on to the National Student Loan Data System to ensure that your loan record is correct.
  2. Make sure that you keep your Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employment Certification (PDF) current. Clark Howard (consumer advocate hero!) suggests that you file this form each year. Can’t hurt!
  3. Visit the Public Service Loan Forgiveness page and tool
    to see if there is an option for you there. Currently (2019), they show an alert that there is a temporary loan forgiveness program available for some loans. Go now... first come, first served! Warning: You need to apply for the main loan forgiveness program BEFORE applying for the temporary emergency program.

    (9/9/19 note: The US government's General Accounting Office released a report that the US Department of Education is denying over 99% of applications for the temporary program. This is so wrong. All we can say is to apply anyway, be very patient, expect to get denied, and hopefully by the time you appeal the politicians will have a fix. See below for links to find your federal legislature to contact them about this atrocity.)

If you currently do not qualify, you should try to identify and speak to your loan officer, or some other representative from the lender/servicing company to see if they have any options for you. If you don’t know who that is, you can reach out to your former school’s financial aid office and they should be able to help trace your loan.

One suggestion is to consolidate your loans and change it to one of the available income-driven repayment plans which may be available for forgiveness. NOTE: This may reset the 120 month timer, so this option would be better for recent graduates. If you choose this option, know that debt consolidation is a free service. There a several marketers who try to sell you their loan consolidation services for a fee. Know that you are paying for their service, not any fees in connection to the loan consolidation.

Another suggestion is to try to wait it out. The current administration has indicated in their 2020 Budget Proposal a desire to end the forgiveness program (as well as subsidized loans in general) to save the government money. While this is not a guaranteed eventuality as Congress will insert their politics, the intent of the current administration is clear — the students of today don't matter. A new administration may well keep the programs which have allowed so many students to prosper — and contribute long term to the economy! (Just our opinion.)

What Can I Do?

Meanwhile, if you’re the activist type, go ahead and submit your opinion about the future of student loan programs. Here are some links:

US Student Aid feedback
"We want to hear from you about your federal student aid experience."

Raw source for current regulations open to comment on "student aid forgive"

Find your federal legislator (and write them a letter/send an email!):
US House of Representatives
US Senate

US Government Student Loan Forgiveness Statistics

Student Loan Information Resources

NerdWallet 10+ Student Loan Forgiveness, Cancellation and Discharge Programs

Forbes magazine Student Loan info

Resources pulled from Clark.com:

*Note the suggestions in this article are for general information only. Contact your financial professional for advice specific to your situation.

2018-2019 FAFSA Form now available

First come, firs served for federal student aid. Don’t miss out! Get your application in early!

Dollar SignAre you even THINKING about going back to school in the Fall of 2018? The time is NOW to get your financial aid forms submitted. Can you believe it? That may seem like a long way out, but it is way easier to cancel aid than try to apply for and receive it next summer.

In order to allow folks more time to fill our their annual Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form, it is now made available online on October 1 of the year prior to need.

We recommend that ALL students fill out this form. It is the key to unlocking aid you my not have known existed, or that you may not have felt you qualify for. You don’t know unless you try!

We recommend that you fill out the form as soon as possible as some states run out of funding early. First come, First served.

Visit the Federal Student Aid home page to get started on this years FAFSA.

The 2018-2019 enrollment period has also reactivated access the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. (It closed in early 2017 for security reasons.) If you choose to link to your IRS account via this tool, this can save you time and ensure accuracy. Note that if you use the retrieval tool, you will not be able to see or edit the data entered on the website. I guess this is a security feature. If you manually enter the info, you can see and change it.