After you finish your college education, your first thought would be to start looking for a great job so that you can repay those student loans hanging over your head. Depending on how much you earn, it can take a few or many years to repay that loan completely and wipe out your debt.
Unfortunately, there are no real shortcuts to pay your student loans. However, there is one option you can explore if you want to get rid of that debt once and for all—student loan forgiveness programs.
There are a few legitimate student loan forgiveness programs that allow you to clear your debt completely and save thousands of dollars. You have to keep in mind though that no lender, whether federal or private, will help you erase all your debt without very good reason or without asking for something in return.
Forgiveness programs come with strict caveats. You will have to meet all of the stipulated requirements before your federal student loans can be forgiven.
Types of Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
There are primarily two types of student loan forgiveness programs. One program is the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program while the other is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The qualifying requirements for both may be different but they are both equally stringent and meeting them is non-negotiable if you are looking to get your debt wiped away.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness: You can pursue the teach loan forgiveness program if take up a job as a teacher in certain specified schools for a minimum of five consecutive years on a full-time basis. These schools are typically low-income schools. If you fulfill these criteria, about $17,500 of your student loan amount will be forgiven. The loans that can qualify for this program include federal Stafford loans, unsubsidized loans and direct subsidized loans. As the amount forgiven is only a small fraction of the total loan amount, most graduates do not find the terms of this forgiveness program attractive enough and generally do not look into this program unless they are truly interested in pursuing a career as a teaching.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness: In this student loan forgiveness program, you have to work full-time for a qualified employer. According to the terms of this program, the emphasis lies more on your employer rather than the job position itself. Initially, you would have to make 120 consecutive payments over a decade to show that you have been making an effort to clear your student loan debts. After you’ve made the 120th payment, you can apply for your student loan to be forgiven.
Pros of Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
Some of the advantages of student loan forgiveness programs include:
- Helps you get rid of your student loan debt: If you opt for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, you can get rid of your student loan as long you make the 120 monthly payments over a period of 10 years. Thereafter, the remaining loan amount will be forgiven. The Teacher Loan Forgiveness also helps you get rid of your loan but there is a limit on the amount that can be forgiven.
- There are several jobs that qualify for the program: You do not necessary have to enter public sector service to qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The program takes into consideration the employer and not the kind of job you do. So, it is possible to work at a job you like as long as the employer is acceptable to the program.
- You do not pay tax on the forgiven amount: Some student loan repayment plans come with a tax implication as the IRS considers the forgiven amount as taxable income. This is not the case with the Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs. Hence, you have no reason to worry. This basically means, the IRS will not slap you with a huge tax bill after the loan amount is forgiven.
Cons of Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
Knowing the cons of student loan forgiveness programs is as important as knowing the pros. It’s only when you understand the downside can you truly make an informed decision as to whether you should avail of a student loan forgiveness program and also which one is best for your circumstances.
Some of the disadvantages of these forgiveness programs include:
- The qualifying criteria are very stringent: To get the benefits of a forgiveness program, you have to first ensure that you are employed by a qualified employer. Thereafter, till your student loan amount is forgiven, you have to adhere to a long list of requirements to ensure you remain in the program. For instance, for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, you have to be up to date with the annual documentation and paperwork. If you aren’t, you get disqualified from the program.
- Job prospects are limited: If you want to enroll in a federal student loan forgiveness program, it will limit the jobs you can take up. While it is great for graduates who are interested in working in the public sector or who are passionate about teaching, these career paths may be everybody graduate’s first, second or even third choice. It can be a major compromise.
- You will be required to make a long-term job commitment: To qualify for the student loan forgiveness program, you have to be willing to commit at least 5 to 10 years in the chosen field of work. This can be cumbersome if you are not interested in working in the relevant jobs.
The Bottom Line
Student loan forgiveness programs are attractive as long as you know what you are getting into. Before you make this major decision, it is important you understand each forgiveness program and its pros and cons before you decide it is the right one for you.
If you don’t qualify for any of the forgiveness programs, everything is not lost. There are also a few income-based federal repayment programs that you can qualify for, and these could result in loan forgiveness after a stipulated period of time.