July/August 2020 Issue
June 13, 2020

NYSUT webinars help members navigate student debt relief

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
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Negative amortization, IBRs, ICRs. What’s the difference between Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness? Welcome to the complex world of student loan debt, where more than 45 million people owe an average amount of $33,000.

With tens of thousands of NYSUT members struggling to understand and get out from under crushing debt, the union is offering free student loan debt workshops in partnership with Cambridge Credit Counseling. Since the COVID-19 crisis, NYSUT has moved the workshops online, helping thousands of members with an informational webinar and individualized follow-up support.

One of those members is Danielle Schaetzle, a reading teacher and member of the East Rockaway Teachers Association.

“I signed up for the webinar because I wanted to be more informed and figure out the next ‘best’ steps for me,” Schaetzle said. “I’ve been paying for so many years and felt as though I had no other option. Every time I tried to find information on my own, I was definitely overwhelmed.”

But for Schaetzle, the union’s 90-minute informational webinar was “incredibly helpful and informative.”

She learned about the various types of loans, repayment plans and misconceptions many students have coming out of college. Cambridge Student Loan counseling manager Todd Friedhaber clearly explained the nuts and bolts of two key loan forgiveness programs: The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which allows eligible educators to have their student loans forgiven after making 10 years of on-time payments, and the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, for educators who teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school.

For more info, go to studentloans.nysut.org.

After viewing the webinar, Schaetzle took advantage of a followup appointment with a debt consultant and worked on an action plan.

“He could not have been more supportive, clear and helpful!” she said.

Schaetzle, who has been teaching several years, is happy to say she learned she will be eligible for one of the loan forgiveness programs and can consolidate some of her private loans. “I learned that I did one thing right by not consolidating all of my private loans,” she said. “Something I didn’t know was when you consolidate the wrong combination of loans, those years of payments do not count toward (loan forgiveness payments).”

NYSUT is making the student loan debt webinars available free of charge as a benefit of union membership.

Student debt is a cross generational problem. “Younger people are unable to buy homes or delay starting a family. Older borrowers are more likely to default and literally pay until they die,” said Megan O’Brien, manager of NYSUT’s Organizing department.

The goal is to educate members and get them to a place where they feel comfortable taking some action that may help them reduce or eliminate student loan debt, O’Brien said. Debt clinic participants are also offered follow-up services to help sort through options, including access to a student loan portal.

For more info, go to studentloans.nysut.org.

CARES Act includes big relief for student loans

The federal COVID-19 relief package includes student loan relief measures:

  • Six-month suspension of federal student loan payments and interest accrual (through Sept. 30).
  • Suspended monthly payments are considered as qualified payments toward achieving PSLF.
  • Student loan borrowers are protected from involuntary collections, wage garnishments, or reductions of tax refunds or federal benefit payments during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
  • TEACH grant and Teacher Loan Forgiveness programs are modified to allow exemptions during COVID-19, if an educator is unable to fulfill their teaching service obligation (TEACH) or consecutive years of teaching service (TLF).
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