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Are There Any Loan Forgiveness Programs for Social Workers, Teachers and Other Public Service Jobs?

Mark Kantrowitz

June 13, 2011

I have a question about the public service loan forgiveness program. Would it still apply if I work for a non-profit job? I am a little confused about the difference between public service and non-profit. I would really like to apply for the loan forgiveness program but the company I am interested in is non-profit. — Jessica E.

Public service jobs include a variety of other occupations in addition to working for local, state and federal government agencies. For example, public service jobs include working for any tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

Eligible jobs also include public safety and law enforcement (police and fire), emergency management (EMT), military service, public education (public school teachers), early childhood education (including licensed or regulated childcare, Head Start and State-funded prekindergarten), social work, public services for individuals with disabilities or the elderly, public interest legal services (including prosecutors, public defenders and legal advocacy on behalf of low-income communities at a nonprofit organization), public librarians, school librarians and other school-based services, and public health (including nurses, nurse practitioners, nurses in a clinical setting, and full-time professionals engaged in health care practitioner occupations and health care support occupations). Full-time faculty at tribal colleges and universities, as well as faculty teaching in high-need subject areas and shortage areas (including nurse faculty, foreign language faculty, and part-time faculty at community colleges), also qualify. Public servants working for the government do qualify, except for members of Congress.

To determine whether your job qualifies, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center, a toll-free hotline sponsored by the US Department of Education, at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

I am a new teacher with outstanding student loans. I keep hearing about programs that will forgive student loans for teachers who teach in impoverished areas or teach in high-need subjects such as science or math, but I have yet to find one that will help out a teacher that didn’t take out a loan before 1993. Can you tell me about any of these programs? By the way, I teach in an impoverished area (about 90% of the students are on the free and reduced lunch program), and I am a science teacher. I was on an economic hardship deferment, but now I am no longer a substitute teacher and do not qualify. I can’t make the payments they are asking for because my teaching salary is not enough to go around. — Kimberly F.

Consider using the income-based repayment plan to reduce your monthly loan payments to an affordable level. Income-based repayment bases the monthly payments on a percentage of discretionary income, as opposed to the amount you owe. Discretionary income is the amount by while adjusted gross income exceeds 150% of the poverty line.

In addition to public service loan forgiveness with income-based repayment, there are also a variety of front-end loan forgiveness programs programs for teachers. A front-end loan forgiveness program forgives a portion of the student loans each year as the service occurs.

For example, highly qualified math and science teachers who teach full-time for five consecutive years in certain elementary and secondary schools serving students from low-income families may qualify for up to $17,500 in Stafford loan forgiveness. The full set of eligibility requirements and an application form can be found on the US Department of Education web site.

The American Federation of Teachers maintains a list of other loan forgiveness programs as part of its teacher funding database.


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