March 2016 Issue
March 06, 2016

Got student loan debt? Union-led effort can help

Source: NYSUT United

Buried in student debt?

A little-known government loan forgiveness program could help.

The American Federation of Teachers, one of NYSUT's national affiliates, has launched a major initiative to raise awareness about the programs and ways members burdened by student debt can participate.

The initiative includes free 60- to 90-minute workshops exclusively for NYSUT members to help them navigate the student loan repayment and forgiveness programs and the forms needed to apply. NYSUT members who work in public service, for example, can take advantage of Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), a government program that could allow participants to have all direct federal student loans forgiven, tax-free.

PSLF isn't a payment plan; it's a program that incentivizes a career in public service. Spreading the word about these programs could help spur young people to pursue education careers, for example, without fear of crippling student debt, said Nicole Hochsprung, AFT's senior associate for higher education who is coordinating the workshops.

To qualify, applicants need to make 10 years of on-time payments (120 in total) toward their federal student debt. They must be working in public service at least 30 hours a week (multiple part-time jobs can be combined to meet this requirement) beginning after Oct. 1, 2007. After making the 120th on-time payment, the U.S. Department of Education forgives the remaining federal student loan debt.

Many people using PSLF are also enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan to reduce their monthly payments until their debt is forgiven.

Other programs include income-contingent repayment and pay-as-you earn plans that can help to lower monthly student loan payments.

To request a free workshop for your local, simply send an email to highered@aft.org. The AFT asks for at least four weeks' lead time.

The AFT is also urging public service employers, such as school districts, police and fire departments, public hospitals and non-profits, to take the pledge presented by the U.S. Consumer Finance Protection Bureau to help employees reduce their student debt.

To learn more, visit www.consumerfinance.gov/pledge/.

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